Germs, Infection, Resistance & Immunity

Source: The Hygienic System: Orthopathy by Dr. Herbert M. Shelton. Dr. Shelton was an American alternative medicine advocate, author, pacifist, vegetarian, and supporter of raw foodism and fasting cures, so some of his treatments should not be followed. However, the following chapters from his book are very enlightening.

Dr. Shelton also refers to John Tilden, MD (1851–1940), who wrote the book Toxemia.

Noteable Quotes from this Text

  • Germs, Part 2:
    • … germs live off of dead matter …
    • In the septic tank, sewerage is reduced by them [germs] until it finally passes out pure water in which fish may live.
    • … they [germs] are purifying and beneficial agents.
    • Germs do not, cannot, attack healthy tissue. They are … scavengers, and are busily engaged in reducing dead organic matter to the dust from whence it came.
    • From the stand-point of Natural Science, germs cannot be regarded as the cause of “disease,” for, if they are, we should all be the victims of one or more germs at all times.
    • If bacteria can attack and kill healthy tissues, organs and organisms, then it should not be long before these bacteria shall have destroyed all the higher forms of life and have the world to themselves.
    • If the bungling “scientific” man does not check the flow of healing serum with astringent antiseptics and obstructive dressings, healing will be by first-intention–Nature’s way.
    • When digestion is normal, the bacillus is utilized as food along with the lobster. All of the digestive juices are germicidal and normal digestion digests germs as readily as it does apples or bread.


  • Germs, Part 3
    • … [germ] attempts to assist in the removal of undesirable material by liquifying it.
    • Bacterial toxins are metabolic products of bacterial activity, their character being determined by the feeding habits of the patient.
    • The germ is a busy body waiting everywhere for organic matter to give him a job by fertilizing the soil in which he likes to play and work,” says Dr. Weger.
  • Germs, Part 4
    • If in diphtheria, the bacillus is not found, the illness is renamed something else,” says the Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • Germs, Part 6
    • If germs cause “disease” why don’t they produce “disease” in a healthy body?
    • How foolish, then, to look for the “infectious agent” and ignore the circumstances which disarm the body against microbic invasion. It is difficult to understand why a whole profession has gone insane on the subject of germs, to the utter neglect of those states of metabolism and nutrition which when vitiated, constitute the open sesame to germ invasion.”
    • The researchers have falsely and wickedly heralded the fear-engendering story that the world is teeming with a host of vicious microscopical and ultra-microscopical beings against which no amount of integrity is a shield and the ravages of which we can escape only by placing ourselves in bondage–a servitude born of fear–to the man with the squirt gun and hollow needle.
    • An unreasoning way to rid the victim of germs and parasites is to destroy them with germicides and parasiticides. After killing them off what is to be done about the habitat–the patient? The belief that germs can be killed inside the body is untenable, for any chemical that destroys micro-organisms also destroys the body. Even if medical men are still trying to kill “venereal germs” with drugs, the fact still remains that they damage their patients more than they do the germs.
    • Neither the pueumococcus nor the tubercle baccillus can be killed in situ [on site]; but if they could, what of it? To kill or remove an effect leaves the cause as active as before. To kill the germs without removing the liability-engendering morbidity is to leave the body open for further “invasion.” Nothing is really gained.
    • There is much evidence to show that the use of germicides actually lowers resistance to germs. One example will suffice. Carbolic acid kills germs– human blood kills germs. But if carbolic acid is added to blood, it destroys the blood’s defenses so that germs grow more rapidly.
  • Infection
    • Germs do not become toxic until they get into a toxic environment.
    • Infection or sepsis is generated by the decomposition–fermentation and putrefaction–of dead animal and vegetable substances and secretions. We hold to the theory of the Unity of Infection. Infection is due to the absorption of decaying animal or vegetable matter and is always the same in whatever part of the body it takes place.
    • The deadly germ on the hands, lips, drinking cups, hanging straps of street cars– in fact, found anywhere and everywhere–is not deadly until it gets mixed up with man’s deadly, dirty, filthy physical and mental habits.” Germs do not become toxic until they get into a toxic environment.
    • Before a morbid process can evolve, the power of the part or of the body as a whole to generate its own immunizing agents must be broken down or overwhelmed.
  • Resistance & Immunity
    • The whole immunizing theory is a vicious circle, and is annulled by the facts that when people do not live in a manner to enervate and check elimination, they do not become infected; and when infected, if they overcome enervation they rid themselves of infection, and stay rid of it.
    • Malnutrition always causes lowered resistance and it is safe to say that no person ever suffers from “infections” and “contagions” who has been adequately nourished.
    • Some “infections” are said to confer immunity; some make one more susceptible; some confer lasting immunity; others confer immunity for only a limited time; some confer full immunity; others only make future “attacks” less severe. It is doubtful that biologic law is so chaotic as this indicates. I prefer to think there is something wrong with the theory.
    • The theory that “disease” immunizes against itself is very old, having existed in folk-lore for ages. There is not the slightest evidence that it is true, but the medical profession has accepted it and built a very remunerative practice thereon.
    • What is “immunity?” We contend that it is health–that health gives the best immunity against “bacterial diseases.
    • The gist of the whole theory [immunity theory], and both the ancient logical but barbaric and the modern scientific practices based thereon, is that, in order to be immune to “disease,” we must first become “diseased,” or, as it is now taught, have an animal become “diseased” for us–a form of vicarious salvation. Immunity, in this theory, does not depend on health, nor upon the causes of health, but upon “disease” and the causes of “disease.
    • The truth in a nutshell is that the so-called infections are autogenerated (generated by the body itself), and are avoidable by rational living.

Germs, Part 1

The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, March 12, 1924, in an editorial entitled “New Conceptions of Disease and Treatment,” discusses the trend away from bacteriology and the laboratory specialist and toward bio-chemistry and a return to clinical methods and says: “The reason, therefore, of an eclipse or partial eclipse of bacteriology may be found in the belief that this branch of medicine, if it has not come exactly to a blind alley, has at least come to a halt ***. There are signs, more or less vague as yet, that new conceptions of disease are arising, although such views are themselves nebulous. It is thought by some that there is more or less fundamental unity of disease, and that many of the nosological labels attached to them are superfluous and confusing.”

If there is a “fundamental unity of disease,” as we have proclaimed for over a hundred years, there are no specific “diseases” requiring specific germs to cause them. With the recognition of the unity of pathology all ideas of specific causation will die a natural death.

There seems also to be a fundamental unity of bacterial life. The many forms of bacteria known are easily transmuted back and forth into one form or another. It has long been known that so-called “pathogenic bacteria are not organisms with special features, but that each is a member of a group of organisms possessing closely allied characters.” Their characters are not stable and comparatively slight changes in their environment cause modifications in them. The cultural and microscopic character of “pathogenic” and non-pathogenic bacteria of the same group are so similar that differentiating them is often extremely difficult. The “pathogenic” bacteria have “acquired” their “pathogenic” properties “in many instances” to a very slight degree and some of these characters are not permanent. So-called specific germs are “specific” only so long as their food supply is specific.

Prof. J. G. Adami, perhaps the greatest pathologist of his time, issued a book in 1918 under the title, Medical Contributions to the Study of Evolution, in which he advanced the theory that all bacteria change with their environment so that the “most virulent disease-creating microbe,” “fatal to humanity,” may develop into a harmless or perfectly innocuous one and vice-versa, by feeding it upon different food stuffs in different surroundings. He says, “We can take a culture of streptococci so weak that only the most susceptible animals are influenced by it, and so augment the virulence that eventually the 100th or 1000th of a drop of a twelve-hour culture, or even much less than this, may cause the death of strong adults in six hours or less.”

Dr. Rosenow, of the Mayo Foundation, performed some work with bacteria that is to the point. His transmutation of the organism of the pneumococcus group is a classic. He succeeded over and over again in bringing about a change from a streptococcus organism to a pneumococcus organism, and back again to a streptococcus; or he could run these around through any one of a number of different strains, or even types, and then bring them back to the type they were before, by following a routine of culture and animal inoculations. It is, therefore, possible to have a streptococcus of one type in an original “focus,” which may produce somewhere else in that same body, perhaps, a pneumococcus or a streptococcus of a different type.

Sir Wm. Power, British Medical Officer of the Local Government Board, was asked before the Royal Commission on Vivisection what he meant by “a definite specific organism.” He replied, “A definite organism which will react always in a certain way to a certain series of culture tests.” When asked what “diseases” are associated with organisms for which such a test has been established, he replied: “I cannot say that we have got to that stage with any one of them.”

Before a convention of the Association of American Physicians, Atlantic City, May 16, 1938, Dr. Hobart A. Reinmann, professor of Medicine at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, described his observations of the activities of an organism known as micrococcus tetragenus for a period of four years, during which time this germ turned itself into fifteen distinct forms, when its food supply was changed. Allbutt and Rolleton say, “It is thus possible that the pathogenic bacteria have all been derived from non-pathogenic forms.”–System of Medicine, Vol. II, part 2.

Should not such a discovery as this shake the structure of the specificity of the so-called “germ diseases” to its very foundation? There is nothing strange or mysterious in the discovery of these simple truths by the learned germ theorists, but why do they reach no simple or logical conclusion from them? Is it because they are prepossessed with an illogical premise to begin with, and are blinded by the glare of their own spotlight?

When the history of microbes is finally written, it will reveal that the many varieties of bacteria now described are all derived from one or a few basic forms which are changed by changes in their food, temperature, etc. We believe that the countless varieties of practically all the “pathogenic bacteria” of today will finally be traced back to two or three common every-day ancestors. We are fully convinced that the multitude of species and types are but children of one union, sent out into their respective fields of activity to change their forms according to the demands of necessity and environmental dictates; that after their peculiar mission is fulfilled, they disappear, or assume the likeness and individuality of their prepotent sires, by retracing their steps successively by the same paths that were taken into their first field of operation.

We favor the view that the type of “disease” determines the morphology of the germ present and not vice-versa. Also, it is our contention that germs take on a form and character in keeping with the chemistry of their environment and that their supposed “specific” character and toxicity depend on their environment. There is every reason to believe that non-toxic bacteria become toxic in a septic environment [toxic rotting material]. They derive their characteristics of virulence or innocence from their environment. Non-toxic bacteria become toxic in a septic environment and vice versa. For instance, Sir Richard Douglas Powell, a leading English bacteriologist, stated a few years ago, that if tetanus and gas gangrene germs are washed clean and freed from their environment, they are quite harmless. It has been found impossible to “infect” animals with the spirochseta pallida, the supposed cause of “syphilis.” Infection can occur only when virus from a lesion is employed.

A germ is either toxic or it is not, and the fact that the supposed most malignant germs are found devoid of toxicity compels the conclusion that their toxicity is accidental and that its cause must be sought outside of themselves. When toxic germs become non-toxic the cause must be in their environment. When germs that are” ordinarily innocuous suddenly become actively virulent, it must be due to the fact that they have come in contact with an environment that evolves toxicity. “The incidence of contagion or communicability can be explained in this way.”

Germs, Part 2

Bacteria both lose, and at other times gain, a certain degree of virulence and toxicity. Since this is limited by the environment in which they live, it is natural to conclude that it is their environment that confers upon them their toxic nature and powers. But if germs are to be considered the cause of “disease,” they cannot lose their degree of virulence, and at the same time still maintain their power of infecting men in the manner that they are supposed to do–even granting such a thing to be possible.

Dr. Weger says: “Germs–bacteria of all kinds, in whatever disease they may be found–receive their virulence from the state and condition of the tissues themselves. This accounts for the fact that, when they are successfully grown on various culture-media of the same kind, they gradually lose their virulence, until they are altogether inert and fail to reproduce the reactions accredited to the original strain. No one so far as we know, has ever been able to reproduce an infectious disease by taking disease-producing germs from the normal air, and we defy the bacteriologists to prove that they can obtain filth from any other source than from filth itself. This is, indeed, a significant fact. If the germs are endowed with an original virulence and toxicity, they cannot produce disease unless their powers for infecting the body remain a permanent and invariable quantity. Everybody knows that such is not the case. For instance, people know that there are fifty varieties of bacteria in the human mouth.”

It is our advice to leave the poor bacteria alone. Settle once and for all the question of their function and mode of action, admit them to the symbiotic family of life, and leave them to their nefarious, or helpful work, and get after the real causes of their activity.

Germs are saprophytes; that is, they live off dead inorganic matter. They are omnipresent scavengers in Nature’s great laboratory, working over dead organic matter into forms appropriate to the nourishment of growing vegetation. They are essential nitrifying agents in the soil. Without them, neither plant nor animal could long exist and the earth would rapidly become encumbered with dead bodies.

In the septic tank, sewerage is reduced by them until it finally passes out pure water in which fish may live. From both the esthetic and economic viewpoints, they are benefactors. They are friends of higher life. We live in a balanced and inter-dependent world, which is too complex to ever fully understand, but our dependence upon the symbiotic support of germ life is, at least partly, known.

In the body germs break up and consume dead and dying cells and discharges from the tissues. They perform the same function in the body that is ascribed to them everywhere else in nature. Viewed from this angle, they are purifying and beneficial agents. “What a wonderful vista would unfold itself before our eyes,” says Dr. Weger, “were we to base our future germ investigations on the theory that, primarily, pathogenic organisms are our friends and not our enemies.”

Germs do not, cannot, attack healthy tissue. They are saprophytes, scavengers, and are busily engaged in reducing dead organic matter to the dust from whence it came. The mere fact that bacteria accompany a pathological process does not justify us in assuming that the microorganism is the primary factor in causation. If bacteria can attack and kill healthy tissues, organs and organisms, then it should not be long before these bacteria shall have destroyed all the higher forms of life and have the world to themselves.

Microbes are spread throughout nature, are ubiquitious in fact. Human groups swarm with them. They are in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. We are reared in an environment laden with them. We cannot escape them. We can destroy them only to a limited extent. We must accept them as one of the joys of life. The modern theory of “disease” causation shuts its eyes to the sources of population; and overlooks the fact that natural children and pigs thrive on swill. “Children live in an atmosphere of germs and should be sick all the time if germs cause disease.”

Germ theorists estimate that an average of 14,000 germs pass into the nose in an hour’s breathing. In the subway and in a crowded building, we probably get this many into our noses in a few minutes. Many more are taken in in food and drink. Microbial populations abound throughout nature. Germs, in any location in which they are able to thrive, multiply so rapidly that they would produce more germs in a few days of their own activity than would be taken into the body in a year in the most germ-laden environment. From the stand-point of Natural Science, germs cannot be regarded as the cause of “disease,” for, if they are, we should all be the victims of one or more germs at all times.

The body is built to offer effective resistance to the entrance of germs. The unbroken skin not only prevents the microbes living on its surface from entering the organism, but it is capable of destroying them by means of substances secreted by its glands. The skin joins the mucosa at the nostrils, mouth, eyes, ears, anus, vagina and urethra. This mucous membrane, or internal skin, if unbroken, is impermeable to microbes while its normal secretions are germicidal. So long as the skin which covers man’s body and lines his cavities remains intact, germs have no influence on him; and when the skin is broken, the air and sunshine keep the broken surface dehydrated, and the germs fail to cause fermentation.

The microbe is washed to his destruction by a flood of serum that the powers of life send immediately to every abrasion, tear, or cut in the flesh of the body. If the bungling “scientific” man does not check the flow of healing serum with astringent antiseptics and obstructive dressings, healing will be by first-intention–Nature’s way.

The respiratory membranes allow oxygen to pass into the body, but exclude dust and microbes. The digestive membranes permit water and digested foods to enter the body, but resist the penetration of the bacteria that swarm in the digestive tract. Integrity of the respiratory and digestive membranes constitutes ample protection against bacterial invasion.

When health is normal the digestive secretions are sufficient protection against germs and parasites. Germs may cause putrefaction in a meal of lobsters when enervation prevents digestion; but when digestion is normal, the bacillus is utilized as food along with the lobster. All of the digestive juices are germicidal and the normal digestion digests germs as readily as it does apples or bread.

There is no susceptibility on the part of any healthy organ to bacterial injury. All of the body’s healthy secretions and the blood and lymph are antagonistic to bacterial life and activity. It is obvious that, living in a world swarming with microbes, if these cause “disease,” man must possess powerful resistance to them, else he would have perished long ago. Except for this resistance he could not live through infancy.

Germs, Part 3

If germs are powerless against a healthy body the logical preventive is the cultivation of health. If the body manufactures its own antiseptics and antitoxins it should be supplied with the proper elements of sun, air, water, food, exercise, rest, etc., out of which to build these protective potencies instead of being subjected to the present mad-house efforts to produce artificial immunity.

A certain or specific germ is said to cause a certain or “specific disease.” That this is not true is obvious from the fact that the germ is never the cause of “disease.” It may form one of the multiple factors that collectively constitute cause. For, as Pasteur, himself, said: “In a state of health the body is closed against the action of disease germs.” It is a mistake to single out one of the correlated factors that constitute cause and hold it responsible for pathology. Germs alone can no more produce pathology than a seed alone can produce a tree. Just as a seed must have a fertile soil, moisture, air, water, warmth and sunshine, if it is to grow into a tree, so the germ, if it is to add its complicating influence to an evolving pathology, must find certain essential conditions existing in the bodies of those it enters, before it can do the slightest harm. Normal nerve energy and pure blood–in a word, good health–are proof against germs of all kinds.

Tilden says: “Germs, like heat, cold, clothes, food, drink, and every other object in man’s environment, may become a secondary ally of toxemia; but none of the objects or elements in man’s environment can cause disease except as they may enervate the body, and check elimination of toxin, thereby super-saturating the blood with dead body-cells bringing on disease–the only disease, Toxemia.”–Critique, May 1937.

Impaired health provides the suitable soil in which germs thrive and grow. The soil is more important than the germ. Infection and degeneration can set in only when the soil is badly fertilized by inappropriate nutrition. Germs are immanent coagitators–always secondary; a possible reinforcing or contingent cause, but never an exciting or primary cause.

If germs are a cause, they do not constitute the cause of “disease.” If they require an ally, if antecedent conditions are essential to their work, they are, at most, but part of the cause of “disease,” and are never primary; probably they are not even secondary. Germs are assumed to be the cause, but any one element in a chain of causation may as reasonably be singled out as the cause. “The germ is a busy body waiting everywhere for organic matter to give him a job by fertilizing the soil in which he likes to play and work,” says Dr. Weger.

A universal cause comes first; then the ferment in the form of a germ gaining access to the weakened tissues, takes on activity and attempts to assist in the removal of undesirable material by liquifying it. The morbid material generated by this activity is more a byproduct of the disintegrating tissue than a virulent poison resulting from bacterial maliciousness. Germ activity, in this view, is an outside accessory that facilitates the removal of autogenerated filth.

If tissue loses its resistance, and impaired secretions are present, an otherwise harmless germ may thrive and produce poisons. Bacterial toxins are metabolic products of bacterial activity, their character being determined by the feeding habits of the patient. But the germ is never the cause, anymore than the germ associated with diphtheria is the cause of diphtheria. There must be a prepared soil for its propagation, and germs can only be secondary complications of a pre-existing toxemia. At most they may become an auxiliary cause, but not the primary cause. They may complicate when there is a perversion of chemistry.

But the germs of the so-called specific “diseases” never take on specificity until the vitality of the different tissues is lowered and nutrition perverted because of dysemia–the chemistry of the blood fails to supply the essential elements; then germs, previously innocent, take on virulency in keeping with the general enervation and systemic toxemia of the individual.

The Medical Journal and Record, March 17, 1926, says editorially, “Many acute and semi-acute diseases originate in the mouth, nose or throat by inhalation of microbes or germs there present which are excited into activity by causes as yet unknown. *** This seems to be the theory that is gaining in favor, that some unknown cause activates latent germs into activity.” First it is assumed that germs cause “disease,” then when it is found that the presence of germs does not produce “disease,” it is further assumed that another and unknown cause causes the germs to cause “disease,” but never that the unknown cause is the real cause of the pathology.

The best works on bacteriology declare that all the germs of a supposedly specific character are often found in people who do not have, have not had and do not subsequently develop the “disease” which they– the germs–are supposed to produce. Do germs cause infection part of the time and fail to do so the rest of the time? If so, are there some individuals whom they never attack and others whom they never immunize? If germs create “immunity,” as serologists claim, why are there “chronic infections”? “What causes the “chronic infection”?

Sir Wm. Osier says: “The presence of the Klebs-Loeffler bacillus is regarded by bacteriologists as the sole criterion of true diphtheria and as this organism may be associated with all grades of throat affections, from a simple catarrh to a sloughing gangrenous process, it is evident that in many instances there will be a striking discrepancy between the clinical and the bacteriological diagnosis.” Here we have it stated by the very highest medical authority that diphtheria germs may be present in the throats of those who are sick (have simple catarrh and other affections) without producing diphtheria. The Lancet (Dec. 10, 1927) stated that of 772 cases admitted to the Birmingham hospital in all of which the bacteriological report was positive, 391–about 50 percent–showed no clinical evidence of diphtheria. It should be evident that something more than germs is essential to the development of diphtheria.

Pathologists report finding diphtheria germs in from 7 to 15 percent of the throats of healthy persons they examined, while this germ has been found in skin “diseases,” emphysematous Kings, vaccine pustules, puerperal fever, pyorrhea, eczema, leprosy, “rabies,” and other conditions remote from diphtheria. Dr. Hitter demonstrated the diphtheria bacillus in the throats of 127 school children when no diphtheria was present.

What is true of diphtheria germs is true of the germs of tuberculosis, typhoid fever, pneumonia, or any other so-called “disease.” They are found in the mouth, throat, air passages, stomach and intestines of those who do not have, have not had, and do not subsequently develop the “diseases” these germs are supposed to cause.

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