Humans Are Not At the Top of the Food Chain

Majid Ali, M.D.

Dr. Ali’s Fermentation Course

We humans position ourselves at the top of the food chain, and then celebrate that delusion in many ways. Biology is an equalizer. I do not see the so-called food chain as a chain, nor do I recognize any exalted positions in the hunter-hunted dynamics. In the eternal predator-prey dance of life and death, the predator often becomes a prey and the prey a predator. Based on extended clinical experience, morphologic observations, and biochemical findings in patients with diverse clinical disorders, I consider mold allergy, overgrowth of yeast species in the bowel, and mycotoxicosis to be most significant threats to human health. Considering the myriad roles of fungi in the etiology of human and animal diseases, these “lowly” oxyphobic, fermenting microbes can hardly be delegated to the bottom of the so-called food chain. Nor can humans be assigned the top position. I cite here the case of Staphylococcus aureus to support my larger point here. In 1958, I learned that S. aureus was a nuisance, present on the skin of up to 40% of healthy individuals. In 2008, I learned that the microbial species killed more citizens of the United States than the HIV/AIDS complex.

In 1958, I was taught that S .aureus inhabited the mouth, saliva, and gut, and mostly caused skin infections. Persons suffering from skin disorders (dermatitis, eczema, and open wounds) developed S.. aureus infections, which sometimes proved indolent. Invasive infections were distinctly uncommon, except in cases of bacterial endocarditis and among severely immunocompromized individuals. Staphylococcal food poisoning (caused by infected meat and meat products, poultry, egg products, salads, etc.) was uncommon. Fifty years later, the majority of S.aureus acquire antibiotic resistance, hence the designation methicillin-resistant. S. aureus (MRSA) and infections caused by them are mostly invasive in nature (bacteremia present in 75%). The mortality rate of MRSA infections in the U.S. is 6.3%.

What might be the explanation of the morphing nature of S. .aureus? To explore this larger question, we need to examine the predator-prey dynamics of phagocytes and the microbial species. Weapons used by phagocytes in killing S. aureus include: (1) proteins that facilitate phagocytosis; (2) hydrogen peroxide which, in very small concentrations, activates proteolytic enzymes in phagosomes; (3) free radicals; (4) chelating proteins that deprive the microbes of manganese, a microbial growth factor; and (5) membrane electrochemical changes that disarm the microbes. S.. aureus counters phagocytes by: (1) antioxidant enzymes (catalase, superoxide dismutase, and others); (2) staphaloxanthine, a potent free radical scavenger; and (3) membrane electrochemical changes that thwart the phospholipid arm of phagocytes.150 Even a perfunctory review of the above clinical, biochemical, and microscopic observations shows the central roles of oxygen signaling and oxygen-driven cellular energetics in the reversal of the phagocyte/microbial predator-prey dynamics. I document the occurrence of such a reversal by a set of dramatic photomicrographs in Darwin, Oxygen Homeostasis, and Oxystatic Therapies, the tenth volume of The Principles and Practice of Integrative Medicine.

In the man-microbe conflicts, microbes employ ingenious weapons for their survival. A revealing example is of the parasite Entamoeba histolytica. It produces a 220-kD lectin that is capable of down-regulating some inflammatory cytokines, including IL-5, IL-6, INF-gamma and TNF-alpha.151 Consequently, it can induce an overall “anti-inflammatory response.” This lectin was isolated in patients who had long recovered from amebic abscess of the liver.

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