From Biosis 18/19, September/November 2007
Dr. Verigin’s Comment:
From Microbes in the Mouth to Dysfunction in the Body: Focal Infection Theory
by Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN
Integrative, biological medicine insists that the relationship between oral and systemic health is so important, dentists have a responsibility for the general health of their patients. This connection has been understood for decades. So it makes you wonder: Why has it taken so long for medical science to accept it?
The first work to draw attention to the oral-systemic relationship was W.D. Miller’s Microorganisms of the Human Mouth: The Local and General Diseases Which Are Caused by Them, published in 1890. Soon after, William Hunter synthesized the concept that oral microbes and their toxins were somehow involved in a wide range of conditions not obviously caused by infection, such as arthritis and heart disease. In 1900, the Lancet published Hunter’s first article, “Oral Sepsis as a Cause of Disease.” About two decades later, the British Medical Journal published a major update of his research, “The Coming Age of Oral Sepsis.”
According to Martin Fischer, MD, author of Death and Dentistry, “1900 may be taken as the high point of the debate ” on what came to be known asfocal infection theory. And one of the most important participants in that “debate” was Frank Billings, MD.
In 1898, Billings was named Chair of Medicine at Rush Medical College in Chicago. He was much too busy to write, but he was paid to teach. Regularly, he would lecture on his theory that pneumonia was caused by agents from the tonsils, sinus or oral cavity infecting the lungs via the bloodstream. By 1901, such clinical concepts began to show up in print.
Billings soon became Head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago. (He also served as Dean of Faculty.) By 1904, he was studying how local infections cause disease at distant sites – the etiology of focal infection. His most important associates at the time were the brilliant professor of pathology Ludvig Hektoen and Hektoen’s pupil Edward Carl Rosenow. Rosenow’s animal studies in particular were key to Billings’ work.
One of Rosenow’s most important experiments focused on appendicitis, which was believed to be caused by mechanical factors, foreign body intrusions or direct infection. He isolated identical strains of streptococci from the walls of both chronic and acute appendices, then injected them intravenously into rabbits. More than two-thirds of the animals developed acute appendicitis – results which he repeated using diseased tissues from all parts of the body.
He next isolated strep from the bowl ulcer of a patient ill with “mucous colitis” and injected it into a rabbit. Within 72 hours, the animal developed a hemorrhagic, necrosing colitis. Similarly, Rosenow took microbial products he had harvested from an abscessed bicuspid in the same patient and implanted them into the pulp chamber of a dog’s tooth. Rosenow wrote, “X-ray photographs of what happened…manifested…abscesses which developed about the filled teeth of the dog in every respect like those in the original human victim.”
These findings were at the same time being independently confirmed in Ohio by the great dental researcher Weston Price, DDS. Price would eventually go on to publish one of the essential works on the subject of focal infections: the two-volume Dental Infections, Oral and Systemic and Dental Infections and the Degenerative Diseases.
By 1915, Billings and his research team had fully synthesized his Focal Infection Theory, which he first delivered through a series of lectures at Stanford University Medical School. The following year, his book Focal Infections was published.
As Billings put it, “Focal infection is most commonly situated in the head, but may be located in any organ or tissue.” In other words, though focal infections can arise anywhere, they’re most apt to do so in the mouth. A few decades later, Patrick Störtebecker, MD, PhD, would demonstrate that toxins produced by the microbes in a diseased dental pulpal complex and surrounding bone actually enter the cranial venous system, which transports them to the brain and spinal cord where they may cause any number of degenerative diseases. Later research showed that infections from other body tissues could likewise affect the brain, substantiating the work of Marineso and Dragonesco, and Oscar Batson.
According to Fischer, “Billings…changed completely the place for emphasis in clinical pathology. Those peripheral manifestations of disease were no longer to be regarded as expressions of vague systemic intoxications but the product of direct invasions by microbial life, producing in situ a local poisoning; and it had not arisen there or gotten there by simple extension but via living germs sown into the area by an infected blood stream.”
By the mid-1920s, dentists with this awareness were removing infected teeth hand over fist, right over left – with less than stellar results. And so the concept of focal infection fell into disrepute. But as Huber Newman wrote in the 1996 volume of the Journal of Dental Research, “By relegating this notion to the professional back burner, we compromise our role as oral physicians – physicians whose area of specialization is the mouth. The problem about the original discovery was the tenuous nature of the link between putative oral foci of infection and related disease. And that is the warning to us: that for the hypothesis not to fall into disrepute for a second time there must be no unsubstantiated attributions, no theories without evidence. Many original publications were anecdotal. Direct cause-and-effect evidence was lacking,”
It wasn’t long, however, before that would change…thanks to the brilliant work of the Austrian physician Alfred Pischinger and those who have followed in his footsteps.
Pischinger was the first to seriously challenge Virchow’s Theory of Cellular Pathology. Building upon the groundbreaking work of Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg, the father of homotoxicology, Pischinger helped us understand the human body as a self-regulating system. The pivotal moment came in 1955, when he presented his early theories of the basic regulative system to the German Society of Focal Research. The response was monumental. Shortly after, Pischinger was offered a full professorship in histology (microscopic anatomy) and prestigious position heading a research team in Matrix Regulation at the University of Vienna. He accepted.
Pischinger and his research team went on to prove scientifically that it’s the basic regulative system that controls the fundamental functions of life – things like body temperature regulation, metabolism, pH, redox potential and resistivity of trace minerals. It maintains the functional properties of theparenchymal cells – those that organ tissue is made of – through an ordered metabolism. It is also the nutritional medium for all cells and protects their genetic structure.
The guiding factor is what’s known as the ground substance. In the words of German researcher Hartmut Heine, now considered the top scientist in this area, “Ground Substance [is what] pervades the extracellular space of the entire organism, reaches every cell and always reacts the same way. Where the extracellular space is reduced to minimal fissures in the brain mass, the Ground Substance forms the intracellular substance.”
In short, it is the stuff of the milieu, the biological terrain, and the health of the entire organism – the human body – depends upon its health. For it is also a non-specific sounding board for all the irritations and intoxications that our environment bombards us with: pathogens, chemicals and other physical influences. The sum of them can bring the whole system to exhaustion. It becomes blocked, rigid. Energy can no longer move freely along the body’s energetic meridians – the “passageways” of sorts among the body’s acupuncture points. This, in turn, adds to the blockages and exacerbates rigidity. The body is made more vulnerable to illness, dysfunction and disease.
It’s now understood that this energetic aspect is the most important in the etiology, or cause, of disease. And it points to why those early 20th century dentists described above, yanking out infected teeth in hopes of removing the source of distant infections, failed to get favorable results. They weren’t yet aware of this “missing link”
In short, if the milieu is plagued by blocked energy and rigidity, surgically removing diseased dental tissues comes to naught. And to understand why, we need only look to Pischinger’s more informed and refined definition of a focus. In his words, it is “a chronically changed tissue area in the Vegetative ground system. It comprises organic and/or inorganic material, material which can no longer be decomposed and which can only be eliminated via a necrosis or inflammation. Such a focus forms a process, which radiates a damaging remote effect, since the local defense barrier has been broken.”
That effect is not only biophysical but energetic.
Ground system and cell regulation involve all the functions cells carry out to maintain balance, or homeostasis. Of particular concern are their responses to extracellular signals such as hormones and neurotransmitters, as well as how they produce and intracellular response. The vast majority of illnesses involve faulty communications among cells via the biological terrain. One of the things homeopathics can do – and drugs can’t – is target the molecules involved with cell- and terrain-signaling with specific electromagnetic bio-resonances, or photons, which are the quanta (energy packets) of an electromagnetic field.
Focal disturbances contribute to signaling errors that ultimately show up as dysfunction in the body and lead to the onset or progression of an altered tissue state, illness or disease. Specific information such as pH, redox potential and resistivity levels collected through Biological Terrain Analysis can help dissect such errors via evaluation of the energy package of the acupuncture meridians.
Once the state of the terrain is understood, we can understand how to remove the blockages – a process called opening the channels of elimination. This must be done if the surgical removal of foci such as root canal teeth and cavitational osteonecrosis lesions is to be of any benefit.
Again, if the blockages aren’t removed, removal of the foci won’t do much good.
Regulation in life is characterized by reversibility. Consider the simple example of water: how it turns to ice and then back to water by virtue of temperature. Likewise, steam condenses to water when temperature drops. These are natural movements from state to state, driven by what’s happening in the environment.
In clinically healthy tissues, fluid states are reversible – just like with water. Dead tissue states are not. The tissues can neither take in nor give out metabolic products. Instead, diseased tissue from dental foci creates only byproducts of decomposition – substances such as mercapatan, thioethers and ornithine, which can easily block regulation. The proteopolyglycanes – high-polymer sugars found in the terrain that normally facilitate communication – can no longer allow accurate and helpful information to transit through the space in the terrain between the capillaries and the cellular structures.
Thus, each cell is left to its own devices and embarks on a series of life processes that are no longer coordinated with those of the other cells. The DNA and RNA within the nuclei are altered. The cells become sick.
According to Voll, a German physician, and his associates, dentists Kramer and Thomsen, “The characteristic features of a disturbance factor…are that it is under strain [or] of overriding importance, it keeps to the path of the meridian and puts everything under strain generally….[T]he characteristic features of a focus are that it is under strain [or] of lesser importance, puts an organ under strain between a pair of meridians and puts a strain on a particular organ.”
Thus, what we need to know is whether the source of illness is a disturbance factor or a focus. If the latter, simple removal may be enough. But if disturbance factors are at work, focal removal alone will not solve the problem. For without removal of the blockages, as well, there can be no reversibility. It’s like water turning to ice and being kept from turning back to water.
Consequently, writes Heine, “The capacity of the ground system [i.e. the terrain] for regulation is for this reason most important in the course of an illness. In all acute and chronic diseases and tumors it is possible to prove the existence of disturbances in the regulation mechanism and ultra-structural alterations in the ground substance [i.e. terrain].”
Biological medicine has its own dynamics, both cybernetic and energetic. Every cell can and does communicate with every other cell in the body – as if each has the phone, mobile and fax numbers of the others, as well as their e-mail addresses. When communications are interrupted, humoral, neuronal, hormonal and basic regulative systems are affected – well before morphological changes are seen in the parenchymal cells; well before illness and disease begin to manifest themselves as symptoms.
Recently, I devoured the new book by Martin Pall, PhD, professor of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at Washington State University. InExplaining Unexplained Illnesses, this world-renowned expert in biological regulatory mechanisms lays out his new theory about multisystem illnesses (e.g. chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivities and PTSD). Pointedly, he writes, “The challenge to a scientist or thoughtful lay person trying to look at these insights is how to objectively assess their importance without ‘falling in love’ with the theory and thus destroying one’s objectivity. That is a major challenge and in the face of this challenge, I would simply say that you do the best you can….The need for good science here is far from academics. There are tens of millions of people whose lives are severely impacted by these diseases and they are depending on us, whether they know it or not, to do the right thing.”
This passage reminded me of another – one from Thomas Kuhn’s famous Structure of Scientific Revolutions: “New assumptions (paradigms/theories) require the reconstruction of prior assumptions and the reevaluation of prior facts. This is difficult and time consuming. It is strongly resisted by the established community. When a shift takes place, a scientist’s world is qualitatively transformed and quantitatively enriched by fundamental novelties of either fact or theory.”
And as Kuhn writes elsewhere, “What must the world be like in order that a man may know it?”