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delusional parasitosis

Gerald L. McLaughlin, Ph.D gmclaugh at IUPUI.EDU
Thu Mar 12 10:33:34 EST 1998

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

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