Florida's New Public Health Menace
This outbreak is a striking example of an environmentally acquired illness arising from changes in chemical usage on land. The lakes around Orlando in Central Florida have a new, exotic invader, a toxin forming Cyanobacteria (commonly called blue-green algae) with a jaw-breaking name - Cylindrospermopsis - not found in Florida before 1995. Copper in the water normally kills this organism. In Australia, copper sulfate treatment of reservoirs has repeatedly caused algae cell death and release of endotoxin from the algae. Because normal water treatment (without activated charcoal filtering) doesn't remove cyanotoxins, they made many people sick and caused liver damage. In Brazil, water was pumped from a reservoir during a algal bloom into tanker trucks for transport to dialysis clinics. Of course, the water was treated with chlorine to kill any organisms that might be present. The treatment killed the algae, releasing their toxins into the water. Over a weekend, more than a 100 hemodialysis patients became severely ill with liver and nerve damage. The first sign of illness was often blindness. The poisoning resulted in the death of over 50 patients. The algae there were marginally resistant to copper, but simply killing the algae during a bloom is not the answer to safe drinking water.
In Florida, the algae is resistant to copper and also is resistant to a fungicide, benomyl (see chapter 4 and 5 in Desperation Medicine) that has been used widely in Florida. If you take a sample of water from a fresh water lake, even one from Florida a few years ago, you normally find over 300 species of algae. Statistically, none will be resistant to the lethal effects of copper. Anecdotally, all will grow, even if fungicides like benomyl are present. In Florida, the genetically altered Cylindro ignores any of the known algae poisons, including those noted above. Now drops of water from Lake Griffin, Lake Harris and Lake Apopka will likely have only Cylindro in it, having out competed other algae. In these lakes, and others that feed into the Oklawaha watershed that is the source of the St. John's River, Cylindro now comprises 95% of the total algal biomass. Cylindro is now found in over 80% of Florida's lakes, and is rapidly spreading throughout North America, probably on boats and the bodies of ill waterfowl.
Florida health and environmental agencies have been studying the explosive growth of Cylindro, but have not been able to develop a management plan as yet. Meanwhile, the algae have been linked to massive die-offs of migratory fish eating birds, especially pelicans, in newly flooded wetlands around the farms adjacent to Lake Apopka. Alligators are dying in record numbers in Lake Griffin, but not before behaving erratically and sluggishly, demonstrating neurotoxicity, much as fish poisoned by Pfiesteria behave. Neurologic testing has shown clear evidence of the effects of a neurotoxin, but no one will officially confirm what many workers in the field believe: the algae toxins are killing the alligators. Even worse, the alligator eggs are not hatching despite being fertile.
The human illness acquired from exposure to toxins in Lake Griffin has all the typical neurotoxin symptoms. Patients are tired, with muscle aches, diarrhea, memory impairment and confusion. They cough, can't tolerate bright light and they hurt all over. Fortunately, the VCS test detects the toxin and therapy is beneficial. The problem of residential acquisition is that its difficult to avoid. What should a patient do if the evening breeze coming off a pea green lake onto his front porch carries a toxin in the mist that makes him sick over and over again?
Dr. Shoemaker's up and coming book, MOLD WARRIORS, will be one of the best books of the decade in medicine and will be readable. It is filled with stories of many different types of pateints with many types of goals and medical struggles that simplistic treatment has failed. It will not merely touch on mold, but the massive new area of biotoxins which is associated with everything from Lyme to pristine lake water. You will be reading about medicine 5 years ahead of your doctor if you pick this one up. I have been reading chapters. It is like a true Indiana Jones series of stories, only in the end, it is not artifacts from ruins you will find, but how to feel better now or how to prevent you and your loved ones from getting ill in ways no one tells you. In many pateints, subtle or serious illnesses missed for years are cured. Take that one to the box office.
For more information on Dr. Shoemaker, browse the website chronicneurotoxins.com, or look at some past books at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble's website. The web site is merely a baby taste. I believe much of the best material in his career is in his upcoming book.