Antivaccine nonsense Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

There’s no such thing as viruses?

I was in a bit of a crappy mood last night.

There were a number of reasons for this, including frustration at work trying to put together two grants, trying to revise a manuscript to resubmit it, dealing with collaborators and various other headaches. Indeed I had a splitting headache by the end of the day when I finally hit the road for the commute home. Things were so bad that I seriously considered actually going to bed and not bothering at all with the blog. I know, I know, such a thing has seldom happened in the nearly four years I’ve been doing this blog. It must be my obsessive personality. Or something.

I thought I might be able to lighten my dark mood by wandering over to the loonier reaches of the Internet, to websites and blogs that at the same time appall and amuse me. They appall me because all too often they promote dangerous quackery or otherwise endanger public health. Age of Autism and are among the most prominent in this category. They’re also among the most amusing, AoA for its self-righteous and hypocritical rants that embrace any wacky hypothesis that comes along, as long as that hypothesis can somehow be twisted to somehow blame vaccines for autism and all manner of other ills, as its “journalists” (and I use the term very, very loosely) intone piously that they are really and truly “not antivaccine,” and for its truly wacky fits of paranoid hyperbole.

I couldn’t believe how I missed this gem from Did you know There Is No Such Thing As The West Nile Virus? In fact, it’s not just the West Nile Virus, but all viruses. A man named Rami Nagel seriously argues this:

Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause? Are they real people flying around performing magical deeds? Hopefully you don’t believe this. Yes, they are fun stories, “something to believe in,” when you are a child; or possibly they are spirits or energy forms. But they do not exist in flesh and blood. This article explains how in same way, West Nile Virus is also a fairy tale that “authorities” want you to believe in. It is not more real than the Easter Bunny. Feel into this truth:

There is no such thing as the West Nile Virus!

I normally deplore spelling flames, but it’s really, really hard not to wonder if Mr. Nagel, who describes himself as an “alternative medicine author and health pioneer,” has been watching too many Tim Allen movies. Of course, in his world West Nile virus is a lie told by the authorities and big pharma for…well, it’s not entirely clear, but apparently everyone’s in on the conspiracy:

Pesticide manufacturers, pharmaceutical giants, the U.S. government, industry scientists, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), State and County government agencies believe in their own fairy tales. But they find those children’s stories too boring and too happy. They wanted something dark and sinister. So they rewrote the fairytale and thought of some scary name that evokes fear of the unknown: “West Nile Virus”. Then, rather than good people who give children presents and good feelings, this West Nile Virus is a mean and ugly monster. It kills people, it’s contagious, and they want you to think that you should be very afraid of it. They want you to be so afraid of it that you will vote for your local governmental agency to go ahead and spray chemicals on you (and some mosquitoes) to stop it. But you know what? Just like the Easter Bunny and all the others, it just doesn’t exist. Let me explain.

Of course! How silly of me! I should have known. It’s all a massive plot to scare people into accepting spraying to kill the mosquito that carries West Nile virus. Damn, those pharmaceutical and chemical companies are clever! Since West Nile is a virus for which there is no specific treatment other than supportive care, they couldn’t use it to sell expensive drugs to treat it, but they sure could use it to sell pesticides, right? Why sell pills when you can sell massive quantities of pesticide? Why just “poison” a relatively small number of sick people when you can poison millions of healthy people instead? Damn those nefarious pharmaceutical executives and their government lackeys! Is nothing beyond them? Fortunately there are men like Mr. Nagel who can see through their evil schemes to protect you–yes, you!–the innocent consumer!

Mr. Nagel then discusses Koch’s postulates. One thing that struck me reading that description is just how schizophrenic it is. He first characterizes Robert Koch as not being part of the “pharmaceutical mafia.” (Never mind that the pharmaceutical industry in the late 1800s was much, much smaller than it is now and presumably nowhere near as powerful politically, and that Robert Koch was very much part of the mainstream science of his time.) He then praises Koch’s postulates, specifically the ones that state that if a microorganism causes a disease it should be isolable from patients with the disease and introducing it into a healthy human will result in the disease. Of course, germ theory denialist cranks love Koch’s postulates because they were based on the same sort of science they like to use to argue against germs causing disease: 19th century science, with its massively incomplete understanding of infectious disease pathogenesis. Still, even back in Koch’s day, it didn’t take long for physicians and scientists to figure out that there were microorganisms that don’t fulfill all of Koch’s postulates but still clearly caused disease. Indeed, Koch’s postulates caused no end of headaches in the investigation of viral diseases before it was possible to isolate and culture viruses. Moreover, his postulates as originally written didn’t envision the possibility of asymptomatic carriers of various microorganisms, such as typhoid fever, and Koch was ultimately forced to reword them later. Finally, Koch didn’t initially consider the possibility that not everyone exposed to a pathogenic organism necessarily becomes ill, something we now know to be true.

Of course, cranks like Mr. Nagel love Koch’s original postulates, because they think they can somehow twist them into demonstrating that germ theory is not valid, as Nagel does here:

The existence of microorganisms in the body of a sick person does not indicate that the bacteria are the cause of disease. The idea that germs invade the body and cause disease was coined by Louis Pasteur. Even during Pasteur’s time there was strong scientific evidence against this “germ theory” of disease because germs can evolve and mutate based on their environment, this is called pleomorphism (

That the existence of microorganisms in the body of a sick person might not indicate that the microorganism caused the disease is, of course, true. After all, every nook and crevice of our bodies accessible to the outside world are packed with bacteria that live there normally. However, the whole concept of “pleomorphism,” although seeming plausible for a while in the late 19th century based on the limited knowledge of microbiology then, was long ago discredited, as Dr. Mark Crislip describes. In essence, Mr. Nagel is recycling Antoine Bechamp, who was for a time a rival of Louis Pasteur. Bechamp was famous for claiming that bacteria do not cause disease unless the condition of the patient deteriorates, at which point they “become pathogenic” and may even change their form (hence the term “pleomorphism”). His famous saying was that it was the “terrain,” not the “invaders,” that determined disease, which is but one reason why antivaccine loons like Bill Maher are very fond of Bechamps and even parrot a myth that Pasteur “recanted” on his deathbed and “admitted” that it was the “swamp, not the invading mosquitos.”

Which brings us back to West Nile Virus, indeed all viruses. Mr. Nagel goes on from this to conclude something most amazing:

Dr. Koch’s common sense postulates, which set up the criteria to prove the existence of a virus, used to be a part of science. As technology improved science should have been able to conclusively prove the existence of viruses under Koch’s postulates and at least isolate and locate a virus under a microscope. But scientists never have been able to do this. Nobody could isolate any viruses to prove that they exist. Rather than admit that perhaps infectious viruses do not exist, dubious scientists now thought of a better plan. They decided to pretend viruses exist. To do that they had to claim the virus find fits into Koch’s accepted postulates. So they write and use the term “isolated” for a virus even when they have done no such thing.

The idea of a virus causing disease was purposely spread as a disinformation strategy and now everybody believes in it.

I’m tellin’ ya, you just can’t make stuff like this up–unless, I guess, you were chosen to write for Mike Adams’ or perhaps Nagel even goes so far as to say that the West Nile virus has “never” been isolated. I don’t normally like to use Wikipedia for medical information, but in this case I use it as an example of just how easy it is to find information on the West Nile virus, which is actually described fairly well in its Wikipedia entry, which points out that the virus was first isolated in 1937. There’s lots more information about the virus, if Mr. Nagel had bothered to look.

So how does he explain away everything scientists know about the virus, its RNA sequence, its protein coat, and how it is transmitted? Easy:

To “isolate” West Nile Virus (WNV), scientists begin by pulverizing believed-to-be “infected” mosquitoes and “infected” crows’ brains. Then this material is run through a high speed centrifuge, and filtered through a filter whose pores are six times larger than what the size of the virus could be — so anything could, in addition to the purported virus, be left in this mixture. If this mixture of all kinds of stuff is placed in a petri dish and kills cells — which it did — then it is assumed that the cell death was caused by the dreaded West Nile Virus. Don’t mind that there’s a bunch of other stuff in the mixture and no virus, the virus is still blamed for causing the cell death. “Scientists” then take this same material and look for RNA sequences. When they find a sequence, they claim to have mapped out the virus ( .

In fact, they have mapped something, but it’s not likely a virus. They probably mapped part of a mosquito brain. You might think that this article is a joke, especially with my bit of sarcasm; this is not a joke. The only joke, if you will, is to call these crude experiments proof of a virus. But it is also very serious, because it is this bogus science that the health mafia wants you to believe in. And when you believe it then they create false emergencies in order to spray poison on you, your spouse, your pets, or your children. In other cases, they try to coerce people into getting injected with poisonous substances laced with heavy metals to stop some supposed virus. You know this one well; they call it vaccination.

Of course, Mr. Nagel is an antivaccinationist. Did anyone have any doubt? And, of course, I wish his article were a joke, but it is not. He actually appears to believe this nonsense.

Unfortunately, I’m at a loss for how to describe just how stupid his argument is. Somehow my usual metaphors for such unbelievably dumb arguments, such as “the stupid, it burns,” “the stupid, it burns thermonuclear,” or even “the stupid, it burns supernova” (or even hypernova), seem pathetically inadequate to describe the idiocy and scientific ignorance encompassed in just those two brief paragraphs I quoted above. I suppose the closest thing his stupidity could be likened to is a black hole from whose event horizon no sign of intelligence can escape. Indeed, it tries to suck the intelligence from anyone who reads Mr. Nagel’s article and make them as stupid as his argument. Does she really think that this is all scientists do to isolate a virus? Does he really think that scientists haven’t developed techniques to be able to differentiate between cellular structures and actual virus particles? Does he really think that virus RNA sequence is the only bit of evidence other than “crude experiments” that lead scientists to be able to identify West Nile Virus?

But it’s not just West Nile virus that “doesn’t exist.” Oh, no, that would be far, far too reasonable. Instead, Mr. Nagel argues that there’s no such thing as pathogenic viruses, period:

Now, there is such a thing as a virus, but true viruses are far different creatures than the ones we have been taught to fear; they are found in very simple organisms like algae. In more evolved life forms, like animals and humans, cells contain bacteria called Mitochondria; but these things cannot leave the cell. Viruses can leave cells. In any case where viruses have been proven to exist like in algae, they don’t cause disease; they always turn out to be a helpful and supportive part of the ecosystem of the organism. Dr. Lanka states: “Actually in diseases, neither in the diseased organism nor in a body fluid, one has never seen or isolated a structure which one could characterize as a virus. The allegation of the existence of any disease-inducing virus is a transparent fraud, a deadly lie with dramatic consequences”. In other words, there cannot be such a thing as a West Nile Virus. It is a deadly lie ( .

This Dr. Stefan Lanka, it turns out, appears to be an adherent of the quackery known as German New Medicine, which I’ve discussed before.

I apologize. I realize that by now your neurons are probably crying out in pain, frantically trying to activate their cell survival intracellular molecular signaling pathways in order to fight off a wave of apoptosis caused by Mr. Nagel’s concentrated waves of idiocy. Sadly, though, there’s more. First, he rants about how “more mosquitoes= less West Nile virus” (why does he even care, if West Nile virus is, as he claims, either nonexistent or harmless?), how pesticide spraying campaigns are in fact covert population control programs designed to render its victims infertile (much like vaccination, I guess, if you believe some antivaccinationists), and a Hitler Zombie-worthy mention of how some of the pesticides used for such campaigns are made by I. G. Farben:

Pyrenone 25-5 is made by the now infamous Bayer Pharmaceutical Giant, which was originally part of I.G. Farben. I.G. Farben made chemicals for the Holocaust and used slave labor. Dr. Otto Bayer was I.G. Farben’s research director and worked with Americans to develop chemical weapons ( . Bayer, in the mid 1980’s, had a hemophiliac medication, mostly given to children, pulled from the U.S. market because patients were dying from it. The medication turned up positive for AIDS virus tests and must have been tainted with something, since like WNV there is no such thing as the AIDS virus. Bayer then knowingly took those tainted doses and, while the FDA turned a blind eye, sent millions of dollars worth to Europe, Latin American, and Asian Countries (

The stupid waves must be affecting even Mr. Nagel, as he’s becoming increasingly incoherent with his “it was tainted with AIDS, but AIDS doesn’t exist so it must have been tainted with something” nonsense. But that’s not the pièce de résistance. Oh, no. As much as my aching neurons wish that it were, it’s not.

This is:

Researchers Jim West and David Crowe have been working tirelessly to expose the WNV fraud. Mr. West has researched other so-called viruses, and documented the true cause of polio. Polio also is not caused by a virus but by industrial pollution, most famously by DDT poisoning. DDT mainly came from cows eating pesticide-laden foods, which then showed up in high concentrations in milk and ice cream products. Mr. West believes WNV is not a virus but a “cellular response to environmental poisoning.” Mr. West bases his research upon West Nile virus case recordings. When one is poisoned, certain things in the body change; for example, there are changes to blood serum and genes. And the test for WNV is not testing for a virus, but is actually measuring indications of bodily responses to environmental stress.

Forgive me. I had to show you this because I didn’t believe it myself. I hope you didn’t lose too many more neurons. Personally, I have faith that my regular readers have built up a resistance to the intelligence-sapping power of such hyper-silly woo, but I do sometimes fear for new readers who may come across such material upon reading this blog for the first time. Diving right into the deep end of the woo pool can be dangerous, you know.

Germ theory denialists like Rami Nagel puzzle me to no end. I ask myself: How on earth can one look at the overwhelming evidence from many different disciplines that confirm germ theory and deny its validity? How can someone like Mr. Nagel look at that evidence and then conclude that in reality it is environmental pollution that causes infectious disease, not bacteria or viruses? (I guess I might as well ask how people can believe in creationism or that 9/11 was an inside job orchestrated by the Bush Administration and the Mossad.) Yes, people are more susceptible to infection by chronic illness, and perhaps environmental insults can increase our susceptibility to disease. However, to claim that there is no such thing as viruses, that all the scientific evidence for the existence of pathogenic viruses is sloppy and that all the electron micrographs of them are misidentified goes far, far beyond acknowledging that environment can affect our health. To claim that there is a massive conspiracy by the medical profession, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, in concert with the government, to create the “myth” that West Nile Virus and other viruses exist and cause disease is to head right into the Twilight Zone, except that I doubt even Rod Serling could have come up with an idea so bizarre as the ones Mr. Nagel has encompassed in his masterpiece of woo.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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