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Parasites cause cancer? 1990s cancer quackery reappears in 2024

Conspiracy monger Stew Peters and Dr. Lee Merritt claim that all cancer is due to parasites. Everything old is new again, just stupider, and Hulda Clark’s cancer quackery has been resurrected, just with a different “parasite.”

Does anyone remember Hulda Regehr Clark? I mention her because she was one of the very first cancer quacks—if not the first cancer quack—whom I ever started writing about, going way, way back to my Usenet days in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Indeed, I first started writing about her on the first version of this blog nearly 20 years ago. Longtime readers and people who’ve combatted cancer quackery for a long time might remember that Hulda Clark’s brand of quackery, which dated back decades before I ever discovered it, involved the claim that all cancer—yes, all cancer—was caused by an intestinal parasite, specifically Fasciolopsis buski, which causes fasciolopsiasis, in which the parasites can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, allergic reactions, fever, and even intestinal obstruction in severe cases. F. buski itself, which can infect pigs and humans, is called a giant intestinal fluke because it is exceptionally large fluke that can grow to as large as 7.5 cm. long and 2 cm wide. Note that there is zero evidence that this particular parasite causes cancer.

Regular readers might also remember that Clark further claimed to be able to treat all cancers not, as you might think, with a drug that targets this particular liver fluke, such as praziquantel, in much the same way that modern COVID-19 quacks, having repurposed the drug to treat COVID-19 even though randomized clinical trials demonstrate it to be ineffective, have repurposed a drug for infections by worms, ivermectin, as a cure for cancer. You’d be wrong. Rather, Clark’s cure for cancer—I repeat, all cancers—was a device that looked very much like a low rent version of a Scientology e-meter that “zapped” the parasites. Indeed, she even called it the Zapper! According to Clark, her Zapper kills parasites, bacteria, and viruses with electrical energy, but does not harm human tissue, a claim based on her notion that all living things broadcast a characteristic range of radio frequencies and that the device can issue counter-frequencies that kill unwanted organisms, which led her to expand her claims that her Zapper could cure not just cancer, but AIDS and even all diseases. I mean, just look at some of her books:

parasites zapper
She also claimed that her Zapper could cure HIV/AIDS by zapping those pesky intestinal parasites.

It is true that I haven’t written much about Hulda Clark since 2009, because she died that year…of cancer, although her followers desperately tried to deny that that was the cause of her death.

So why do I mention her now? Simple. As 2024 dawned, I encountered yet another example of how COVID-19 grifters and misinformation/disinformation peddlers are adopting all manner of quackery as though it were new. This time around it’s Stew Peters, who posted a video featuring a segment in which he asks Are Micro-Parasites the REAL Cause Of Cancer? Scientist SHILLS Censor Life Saving TRUTH! The segment about parasites as the “real” cause of cancer isn’t the whole show; so I’ll get you there faster; that is unless you want to wade through all the other standard COVID-19 conspiracy mongering and a prolonged rant about Pfizer and its COVID-19 vaccine. Ironically, right after Stew Peters shills for IGF1 as a fountain of youth comes the cancer quackery at around 16:30:

I love how Peters starts out by claiming that he’s about to tell you something “they” don’t want you to know:

So, cancer has been called the emperor of all diseases. It’s been known since ancient times, and for all of human history it’s been known as an exceptionally deadly killer. No matter how much medical technology we invent or how many “miracle drugs” big pharma claims to roll out, cancer continues to kill people in droves and never goes away.

Funny that, isn’t it? That a disease that is caused by mutations that result in uncontrolled growth and tends to be (mostly) associated with aging “never goes away,” particularly in a population with a longer life expectancy than ancient times? Do go on, though, Mr. Peters:

So, is that because the disease is just really hard to defeat?

Yes, Mr. Peters. Cancer is really really hard to defeat. Also, it is not a single disease, but many diseases, depending on the organ from which the specific cancer arises. Some cancers we do really well treating (e.g., breast cancer); others (e.g., pancreatic cancer), not so well. He might know that if he had actually read the book whose title he screwed up. Obviously, though, we all know where this is going, because its a direction nearly all cancer quackery goes, namely to claim that cancer is really something simple and that “they” don’t want you to know that, just as Hulda Clark did when she claimed that all cancer was caused by parasites, specifically a parasitic fluke. The only difference here is the specific parasite chosen, Of course, Peters just JAQs off by asking:

Or, is it because we were lied to about what cancer itself is?

Cancer, we’re told, is the uncontrolled growth of the body’s own cells; the cells of your lung, or of your liver, or of your brain, they just grow out of control, and you get tumors, and eventually those tumors kill you. Well, what if that’s all BS? What if cancer really isn’t explosive cell growth at all? What if it’s something completely different?

Decades ago, German medical doctor Alfons Weber theorized that the real cause of cancer is infection by a micro-parasite. So it’s the growth of these micro-parasites, according to him, and the growth of their egg sacks, that causes the damage to the body associated with cancer. If this theory is true, then literally everything we know about cancer is completely wrong, and that would explain why our treatments are so totally ineffective. No matter how profitable they are for big pharma, they don’t cure cancer.

Let me just interject here that we most definitely can and do cure many cancers and. that there are quite a few cancers even among those that can’t be cured for which we can prolong life expectancy with decent quality of life.

Enter Dr. Lee Merritt, an orthopedic and spine surgeon. Of course, as I like to say, the first kind of doctor I’d go to to learn about cancer would be an orthopedic surgeon. Nothing against orthopedic surgeons, but, with the exception of the orthopedists who specialize in the surgical treatment of cancers of the bone, most orthopedic surgeons are not cancer experts by any stretch of the imagination. Certainly, few of them have the expertise of actual oncologists, radiation oncologists, or surgeons who actually specialize in surgical oncology.

Before I even listened to the interview, though, I had to look up Dr. Merritt. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of red flags in her history:

Dr. Merritt has been in the private practice of Orthopaedic and Spinal Surgery since 1995, has served on the Board of the Arizona Medical Association, and is past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. She has had a long interest in wellness and fitness, and has been Fellowship Certified by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine is one big red flag for quackery. So is the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), which has been a frequent topic on this blog dating back to 2006, as it is basically the John Birch Society of medical professional societies, an organization for “brave maverick doctors” who think themselves above pesky considerations like science-based medicine that has long promoted many conspiracy theories and a lot of pseudoscience about medicine, particularly antivax misinformation and disinformation and, most recently, COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation. Indeed, the AAPS has long been opposed to any form of government regulation of health care; considered the FDA and Health Care Financing Administration to be unconstitutional; was utterly opposed to Medicare; urged physicians not to participate in Medicare; described public health programs as “tyranny” (which makes it utterly unsurprising how it so quickly pivoted to COVID-19 misinformation and antivaccine conspiracy theories that echoed its old antivax conspiracy theories when the pandemic hit); and liked to liberally quote Ayn Rand. Long before 2006 (the first time that I wrote about it), AAPS had consistently viewed mandatory vaccination as a “tool of the state” and a threat to physician autonomy, while minimizing the contribution of mass vaccination to the elimination of various infectious diseases. Consistent with her “brave maverick” quack character, Dr. Merritt even calls herself on her website “The Medical Rebel.”

As for Alfons Weber, oddly enough I had never heard of him before, and, for a quack, his Google footprint is surprisingly small. Let’s see what Dr. Merritt has to say about him. Amusingly, she claims that the whole “cancer caused by parasites” idea was something that she had “stumbled across during COVID,” just reinforcing my observation that COVID-19 quackery has led many quackery-inclined physicians down the rabbit hole into more general quackery, including very old quackery. In this case, after conceding that she is not an oncologist or virologist, Dr. Merritt brags about how after being “cancel cultured” she in essence did her own research and discovered this amazing “theory” about the “true cause” of cancer. Basically, she stumbled across pictures on the Internet of these “cancer cells containing micro-parasites.” This led her to talk about how she used to biopsy spine tumors (which spine surgeons are sometimes called upon to do) and got reports back that the pathologists saw “motion” of what she now “knows” to be these parasites that they called “idiopathic cancer motion.”

She then goes on to discuss how the government has 70,000 codes for diseases and asks whether there are really 70,000 diseases or…now just hear me out…70,000 presentations of just a “few root causes.” Again, quackery is all about taking medicine and disease, which are complex, and portraying them as simple, with one or very few actual “root causes.” Indeed, Dr. Merritt blathers on and on about how these same micro-parasites don’t just cause cancer, but also cause multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and acne rosacea, citing a quack who claims to have found parasites in the brains of ten patients who died of multiple sclerosis, claiming that scientists never asked, “What are those plaques?” It’s a question that ignores thousands of studies over decades trying to answer just that question, “What are those plaques and what makes them form?” Check PubMed for yourself if you don’t believe me.

Also, try as I might, I found no reference on PubMed or even Google to anything called “idiopathic cancer motion.” Certainly, as a cancer surgeon and biologist, I had never heard of the term before hearing it from Dr. Merritt. As always, I concede that that doesn’t necessarily mean that the term doesn’t exist, but I have failed thus far to find any reference describing it. In any event, the images shown on Stew Peters show, as well as a video that I found elsewhere narrated by Dr. Weber himself are not particularly compelling evidence that parasites cause cancer.

Before I discuss this further, let me just point out that Dr. Weber, unlike Hulda Clark, did not claim that it was parasitic worms that cause cancer. Rather, he claimed that it was protozoa. Basically, he shows a bunch of photos of cells suspended in aqueous solution with…something…around them, smaller things, and claims without ever showing it that they are “micro-parasites.” Indeed, vast majority of the video that I looked at consisted not of solid tumors but of red blood cells and leukocytes or various other cancer cells suspended in solution, with these “things” floating around them. To me they looked like the same sort of phenomena that quacks have pointed to before, representing dust, fibers, or bubbles as “nanoparticles” or some such thing that are causing whatever it is that the quack is claiming that they cause, which is why I’d love to have the pathologists who read this blog look at the videos and tell me what they see.

For his part, Peters never misses an opportunity to grift, which leads him to go on about how parasites “take over your body,” “defecate inside of you,” “vomit inside of you,” “eat all of the things that are good for you,” and “leave behind all of the poisons and toxins that are bad for you,” and to promote his—surprise! surprise!—supplement formula to treat all these diseases caused by parasites, Purge Suddenly. So what’s in this concoction? Supplements. Lots of supplements:

Purge Suddenly vs. parasites
Wait, what? I don’t see anything that will actually do anything against “parasites.”

Much of the rest of the interview is pure conspiracy theory, with Dr. Merritt going on about how supposedly MI-6, the CIA, and the Mossad own all the medical publications in the world and thus control all scientific information to control the narrative. She and Peters even liken it all to The Truman Show, a movie starring Jim Carrey as a character named Truman Burbank, a man who spends his entire life in a false reality populated by actors and sets constructed as a reality show, and what happens when he starts to realize that he is in a false reality. She then identifies her “Truman Show” moment, when something happened that led her to see that she was living in a false reality, as the PCR test, where she claims that she ran 18 PCR tests for COVID-19 and found only human genome sequences amplified. (Of course, she doesn’t say how she did this or who did her sequencing for her, if anyone did.) It was basically a retelling of the whole narrative early in the pandemic that claimed that PCR for SARS-CoV-2 generated far more false positives than it didn’t, leading to the conspiracy theory known as the casedemic. She even mentions how fear supposedly causes us to believe in a “virus that’s never been proven to exist.” We’re supposed to be like Truman, who ultimately discovers that he’s in a constructed reality and leaves the set.

Seriously, the conversation is totally bonkers. Just watch the segment, which is only around 15 minutes long if you don’t believe me. Peters and Merritt’s conspiracy mongering runs the gamut from casedemic to 5G to claims that the vaccine could not be made the way it’s claimed to vaccines “poisoning” us and scientists convincing us we are sick when we are not. She even calls COVID-19 mitigation methods a “satanic ritual.” She even claims that her medical texts from the 1970s don’t mention viruses much, but rather parasites. (I call bullshit on this one. Viruses have been known to be the cause of many infectious diseases dating back a century at least.)

I like to say that everything old is new again, as when I point out how many old antivax tropes and lies have been resurrected and repurposed for COVID-19. In this case, I think I’ll add something and say that everything old is new again, but in a stupider form. After all, Hulda Clark at least picked a specific parasite, a specific species of intestinal fluke, as her cause of all cancer. Here, it’s just “parasites,” which are never identified. On the other hand, that actually might be smarter. Not being too specific makes the whole narrative more difficult to falsify.

And now I’m going to have to do another post on this, going into the details, aren’t I.

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]

22 replies on “Parasites cause cancer? 1990s cancer quackery reappears in 2024”

Alright, I forced myself to watch about a third of that awful Weber video.

The “microparasites” he claims to see are quite pleomorphic and largely display what appears to be Brownian motion (random erratic movement of particles in liquid). There’s conceivably purposeful motion in very brief edited segments of the video, but the objects aren’t viewable long enough to tell. What he’s claiming are “gametes” look to me like abnormal RBCs, i.e. schistocytes, or elliptocytes, which can be seen in disease but also in perfectly normal people in small numbers. There’s also some weirdly shaped refractile junk which he either tries to weave into his imaginary parasite life cycle (which appears derived from malaria-causing Plasmodium species, which isn’t what he’s showing) or just throws up there without comment. All in all, his “microparasitic disease” could almost certainly be cured by using clean slides in the first place.

I can’t vouch for other pathologists, but I have never seen “motion” in tumor sections. It would be a neat trick for microparasites to survive formalin fixation and multiple steps of tissue processing, or remain motile after freezing at -20 to -30C for frozen section analysis. I’ve never seen or heard of a pathology report claiming “motion” in an H&E-stained tissue section, and suspect that any pathologist reporting such* would wind up being asked uncomfortable questions by his/her medical board.

I had not heard of Dr. Merritt before, but she has attained a kind of fame with America’s Frontline Doctors spewing Covid-related nonsense. The first thing I did in an online search is check to see if she sells supplements, which of course she does, at The Medical Rebel Store. Those interested in de-parasitizing themselves will want to buy her Full Moon Cleanse, for which a recipe is helpfully provided:

“Mix ¼ cup honey with ½ oz Nerve Support and drink
Immediately after put 1 clove of garlic in blender with 4 oz of pink grapefruit juice and blend well
Add another 4 oz of pink grapefruit juice to this mixture
Mix ½ oz GI Cleanse and drink
The garlic juice and GI Cleanse will kill the parasites”

Remember, you have to do this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. ​On the day of the full moon.**

*I wouldn’t put it past Ryan Cole or Clare Craig.
**Nerve Support and GI Cleanse are each $49.95 a bottle, but no price is too high to pay for ejecting those parasites. Though why you need Nerve Support and other ingredients if garlic juice and GI Cleanse are enough to kill the buggers, is a mystery.
***a Quack Miranda Warning follows, but her clients surely know better.

@ Dr Bacon:

A while back, one of TMR’s moms( remember them?) gave anti-parasitic woo to her autistic son especially during the full moon when the “bugs” went wild

I looked at the Webber video for you. First of all, everything he shows is wet mounts, which is not the best way to decide what you are looking at. There are lots of red cells and some white cells, some of which he zooms in on as if they are culprits. Sorry, they are normal structures. The labels are in German, so it’s hard for me to know what he’s trying to show.

Many of the small structures that he points out seem to be platelets, dirt, or bacteria, which are common in non-sterile preparations, especially if they’re allowed to sit around. There is Brownian motion, lots of it, and anyone with a degree in biology or medicine should be familiar with it (could that be the source of tumor motion?). There are some structures that look like they may be crystals, something that can be seen in wet mounts if they’re allowed to dry out.

Overall, it’s hard to interpret blurry images in a video on a website. It’s sort of like looking for UFO’s in a grainy, blurry photo.

I agree with the previous comment that there are some things that look like purposeful motion, but the simplest explanation is that they are an illusion, our brains recognizing things that are not there.

The technical term for most of this is “schmutz.”

I don’t think that there’s anything there that would win a Nobel Prize. More likely, this video would win a Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award.

Mistaking Brownian motion of small air bubbles for bacteria was also what gave us oscillococcinum – arguably one of the most egregious blunders in the parade of stupidity called ‘homeopathy’.

I entirely agree with my colleagues. I agree, wet mount is difficult to assess, partly because of the blurring and also because it’s not what we pathologists are used to. Much of the “motility” looks like Brownian motion. Also, there’s some fine focusing adjustments going on, causing parts of the study objects to move in and out of focus and causing an illusion of movement. Finally, I have spent the better part of 30 years looking at blood films under the microscope and have seen and identified micro parasites, most commonly malaria, in erythrocytes many times. I have never seen micro parasites associated with cancer. Any intracellular parasites would show up on a routine preparation due to contrasting staining of nuclear material. Simple fact: normal mature red cells have no nuclear material and stain red on the routine Wright’s stain. Parasites have nuclei, which would show up as dark blue structures in the red cell.

I also was amused by the brief glimpses the video gave of these “parasites”. Reminded me of three-card monte or the shell game, and IMO about as trustworthy.

It is so fun to see reactions by actual pathologists, which all mention Brownian motion.

I learned about Brownian motion when I was 17 years old in a high school physics class. Though not in a biology class, which I talked the school counselor to let me miss so I could get physics (usually a senior class) so I could graduate from high school at the end of my junior year (a family tradition since we were/are nerds who hated high school).

Okay, after having a kid with several medical conditions, I corrected that void in my education and took a biology class at a community college. A discipline that had many advances since 1975.

It seems Mr. Peters did not take any science classes after the 7th/8th grade. And it shows. I recently watched documentary narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Food Evolution.” They made sure to put the academic credentials on every talking head. Especially Jeffrey Smith and the Food Babe.

As a side note, one little thing that caught my eye:

… the AAPS has long been opposed to any form of government regulation of health care …

… except when it comes to reproductive healthcare, where the AAPS supports the legal prohibition on all forms of abortion (even Plan B), effectively reducing pregnant women’s legal control over their own bodies and health to that of mere breeding sows.

Wait…so they just tossed their so-called “turbo cancer” out the window for parasites? I guess their nattokinase scame ain’t working so well.

“Turbo cancer” is SO 15 minutes ago. Gotta give the rubes fresh food in this current misinformation banquet.

In other news: Ron DeSantis is still trying to become POTUS by running against Tony Fauci — accusing Trump of having turned the US and its glorious economy over to the evil doctor, in contrast to his preservation of freedom in Don’t-Fauci-My-Florida.

So with the Iowa caucuses just days away, and DeSantis’s poll numbers looking ever more bleak, his team has apparently decided this is the moment to get right-wing COVID craziness back in the news. To wit: DeSantis’s Surgeon General, Joseph Ladapo has now issued an official call for a halt in use of mRNA vaccines, on the basis of them messing with your DNA (though I’d guess you could substitute several other bonkers suppositions here).

Lest you be mildly comforted by the fact DeSantis has next to zero chance of becoming POTUS, Ladapo’s dictum is likely to amp up the already strong anti-vax component of the GOP base. The WaPo article today notes this has “been linked to Republicans dying at higher rates than Democrats from the coronavirus.” But it fails to mention that failure to mitigate against infectious diseases, especially something like a novel respiratory virus, threatens everyone.

Down-column Orac is quoted, connecting Ladapo’s unprecedented action (for a state public health official) to the broader disturbing trend, “The Republican Party has adopted anti-vaccine, anti-public health ideology of this sort as part of its belief system.”

Also in semi-related news, Del Bigtree is now the director of propaganda / messaging for the RFK Junior campaign. Worth remembering he was at the US Capitol on January 6.


This Florida Surgeon General situation is insane
Debunk the Funk with Dr. Wilson

DeSantis lost a lot of votes in Iowa because they died from COVID-19 taking his and Ladapo’s advice.

I pulled up my spreadsheet and Wikipedia and did a quick check comparison of Florida and California for most of 2023. I cut it off at the end of November because death certificates take time to trickle in and it’s too soon after the end of December.

For the first 11 months, California had a CFR of 1.151% compared with 1.532% in Florida. But those numbers are questionable because overall testing is way down because people are using home tests and PCR tests are no longer free.

That being said, California had a PFR of 0.061% compared with 0.112% in Florida. So almost twice as many people died in Florida compared with California. And that was a year after Omicron delivered “Nature’s Vaccine” to practically the entire country (including me). And Florida had a somewhat decent vaccination rate.

Thanks, Ron and Joseph /s

I know!
It sounds like some good old-fashioned medieval medicine “You have an excess of yellow bile, you need to be purged!”

I figured from the title that this was going to be a ‘buy Ivermectin to cure cancer’ scam. I imagine you could tag ‘drink bleach’ in the treatment too.

She also ran for governor of Iowa in 2014 on the Libertarian ticket. Her big claim to qualifications was that she wasn’t a politician.

Got 1.8% of the vote.

I spoke to an engineer of some kind at his daughter’s wedding many years ago. He told me about a machine invented over 100 years ago which used vibration to kill cancerous tissue and leave healthy tissue unharmed. What happened to it, I asked. The pharmaceutical companies were able to deep-six it. I learned later in the conversation what was really behind his embrace of this particular pseudoscience: his niece had died of cancer at age fifteen. He needed someone to blame.

Speaking of parasites:
Newsweek, NY Post
Political opponents will question Dr Fauci privately Monday and Tuesday, 7 hours each and publicly at a future time. It’s time for him to “Face the Music”.

Much of the rest of the interview is pure conspiracy theory, with Dr. Merritt going on about how supposedly MI-6, the CIA, and the Mossad own all the medical publications in the world and thus control all scientific information to control the narrative. . . .

There you go. People just cannot have themselves a good old-fashioned conspiracy without the Jews, can they? Maybe MI-6 and the CIA are the Masonic component.

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