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delusional parasitosis

Dr. Peter W. Pappas pappas.3 at osu.edu
Thu Mar 12 13:57:10 EST 1998

I can not agree that these "quacks" are fairly harmless.  Sure,
they're harmless if you are not buying their products and putting
false hopes in their claims.  That's the same as saying falciparum
malaria is harmless, if you don't have it.

Some (perhaps, many) are selling potions or devices that have no known
medicinal value.  One can argue that this "harms" no one, but it's
just another form of "white collar crime."

And, just because the vendor at a flea market was not doing a good
business does not mean that there is no market for such treatments.
The web if full of very sophisticated, well designed sites that are
designed to entice readers to buy products.  While some of these sites
disappear within a few weeks, indicating a lack of business, others
have been online for years, indicating a measure of success.

Many of these sites imply (or state outright) that parasitic diseases
can not be diagnosed, or that they are misdiagnosed as other diseases.
Unfortunately, there is probably some truth in this.  However, if
people "believe" they have a parasite, based on what they read in a
website, and buy the products that are advertized, they might well not
seek medical attention for the true cause of their symptoms.


The literature distributed by these people (or on their websites) are
often filled with outrageous lies.  On 12 Mar 1998 07:33:34 -0800,
gmclaugh at IUPUI.EDU ("Gerald L. McLaughlin, Ph.D") wrote:

>I ran across one of these alternative-medicine-parasites-cause-disease
>alternative medicine tables last Summer at a rural town canal festival in SE
>Indiana.  As references, they had a remarkable array of old books and
>reprints that discussed the then-high prevalence of parasitism, and
>correlated these with a variety of diseases ranging from cancer to earaches;
>I enjoyed looking through these.  The take home lessens to me were that
>publications are not fact, correlations are not causes, and current
>scientific dogma can be wrong.  I suspect that these turn-of-century authors
>were trying their best.  This booth's primary product was copper tubes
>wrapped by moist towels, attached to a battery, delivering electricity that
>is supposedly at voltages correlated with parasite elimination, based on
>these old publications.  I saw no voltage regulators; perhaps default for 9V
>batteries is considered perfect for parasites.  The spiel was that drug
>company and AMA conspiracies developed around 1900 to keep people sick and
>taking physician-prescribed medicines, while ignoring the early valid work
>that proved electrotherapy works.  I thought about buying the kit ($25)
>partly for teaching purposes, but one fear was that students would believe
>the technology and hypothesis, and another was that I'd be supporting the
>concept's backers.  I did take a demonstration treatment, which gave a shock
>that stayed with me for some time.  
>I regard these quacks as fairly harmless; it seemed to me that they were not
>taken seriously by anyone there, and their low interest level was reflected
>by no observed sales and the obvious poverty of the marketing family.  Scams
>do require some grains of truth to be plausible and appealing, and these are
>not to be entirely discounted.  In this case, I'd agree that modern drug
>companies and health organizations like money; infections are sometimes
>co-factors in chronic diseases; many old quack remedies and recommendations
>(fiber, cod liver oil for gut problem, also giving omega 3 fatty acids, St.
>John's Wort, socialization) have long histories not without reason, and have
>gained recent scientific support, despite tremendous resistance.  I'll also
>admit that I became curious as to whether shocks could cause worm expulsion
>as suggested in the early articles; although I agree that worms aren't
>around in the US to speak of, I do wonder what happens to them when zapped.   
>Gerald McLaughlin, Ph.D.
>Dept Pathology and Lab Med
>635  Barnhill Dr., MS A128
>Indianapolis, IN 46202-5120
>317-274-2651; gmclaugh at iupui.edu

Dr. Peter W. Pappas
Department of Zoology
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH  43210
pappas.3 at osu.edu

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