Richard Moskowitz, MD

Since I’ve gotten a lot of calls about this, I decided to write something up, to avoid having to say it over and over.  Personally, I seriously doubt that biological weapons will ever be used by terrorists on a large scale, because they require such highly specialized conditions and techniques for handling, storage, and delivery to remain effective over long periods of time, not to mention being highly dangerous to their handlers as well.  Chemical weapons like cyanide or nerve gas are vastly more efficient and thus more likely to be used, but that’s for another time. 

The biologicals most often talked about are anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, dengue fever, and botulism.  I begin with anthrax, which is already upon us.  Anthrax is primarily a disease of cattle and sheep, and in Nature occurs most often in the cutaneous form, from direct contact with the spores in wool or hides.  After a short incubation period, it starts as a “malignant pustule,” a boil that quickly turns black or necrotic: hence the name “anthrax,” which literally means “coal-black,” like anthracite.  This tendency to produce gangrene or necrosis is quite characteristic of the disease in all its forms.  In susceptible individuals, the disease can progress into a blood infection, i. e., septicemia, again with local and/or more generalized tissue destruction, and hemorrhagic phenomena.

The spores may also be inhaled directly into the lungs, in which case the illness begins after an incubation period of up to 3 to 5 days with flu-like symptoms, but then very rapidly develops into a pneumonia and septicemia, which is fatal 50-80% of the time, and quite resistant to conventional treatment.  It is in this aerosolized form that it would almost certainly be used as a weapon, but the threat is limited by the fact that anthrax is not contagious from one individual to another, so that each potential victim must be targeted separately.  To infect large populations in this fashion requires highly advanced scientific and technical capabilities, which could perhaps be acquired or stolen by a determined enemy with sufficient resources, but seems highly impractical, expensive, and unduly elaborate in most real-life situations.

The antibiotic Cipro is widely touted as the most effective for the inhaled form, and many people are beginning to stock it just in case, but Levaquin, which is much cheaper and also more potent, is actually preferred by some local hospitals.  The anthrax bacillus is alsp highly sensitive to penicillin, but even when given IV in massive doses, no drug will act fast enough to stop the inhaled form reliably.  A vaccine is currently available for members of the U. S. military only, although I’d venture a guess that many high government officials are quietly queueing up as we speak.  Unfortunately, weapons-grade anthrax, like other biological weapons, has been genetically modified to make such vaccines ineffective; so I wouldn’t bet on it.

The homeopathic nosode Anthracinum, prepared from the spleens of infected sheep, was introduced into homeopathy by the veterinarian Lux, a colleague of Hering, as early as 1830, and has repeatedly proved its worth, not only preventively, but also for curing the disease in numerous outbreaks among livestock throughout the Nineteenth Century.  But most of these cases were in the cutaneous form, as I said: I know nothing of its track record, if any, for treating pulmonary anthrax, but I wouldn’t want to place any bets on that, either.

For short-term prophylaxis, i. e., after known exposure, during the incubation period, or in a high-risk situation, I would suggest taking Anthracinum 30 or 200 three times in a 24-hour period (waking, bedtime, waking, or vice versa), followed by once or twice weekly thereafter, for 2 more weeks, or if need be until the emergency subsides.  One local supplier has agreed to provide the remedy to my patients without a prescription, and I hope and expect that the industry as a whole would do likewise.

Treatment of frank pulmonary or septic anthrax, however, requires hospitalization in an Intensive Care Unit.  Aside from Anthracinum itself, in the early flu-like stage, typhoid remedies like Bryonia or Baptisia might be useful, while in the more advanced septicemic phase, the remedies cited by Vermeulen and others include Lachesis, Arsenicum album, Crotalus horridus, Secale, Carbolic acid., Mercurius, Sulphur, Silica, Pyrogenium, Echinacea, and Arsenicum iodatum, to which I would add Vipera.  In any large-scale attack, the genus epidemicus or specific remedy for that outbreak will soon become apparent, and could then be given out, both prophylactically and for treatment of early cases; but by then it will be too late for some.

 

December 2001

ADVISORY ON ANTHRAX