A 56-year-old woman was referred to a Stanford University eye clinic in California last year with major facial swelling.
At first glance, she looked like a victim of a savage beating, or perhaps a car wreck. Both her eyes were swollen and ringed with dark purple and pink bruising, her eyelids drooping and obscuring her vision. A massive dark pink "goose egg" bruise swelled between her eyebrows.
Her cheeks were swollen too, her makeup unable to cover the purple around her mouth, streaking up one side toward her right eye.
More of these painful lumps marred the woman's arms and breasts. Years before, her doctors learned, she had had cosmetic facial injections without any reaction, and after a cancer diagnosis, she had her breasts removed and silicone implants inserted. She marked the beginning of her condition from about five years after that, when she began to experience muscle and joint pain and profound fatigue.
She had already had surgeries to remove the swollen tissue around her eyes and forehead. Previous injections with antibiotics and steroids by other doctors had not helped to stem the inflammation.
The Stanford doctors biopsied the swollen masses on her face and found that they contained inflammatory granulomas—the immune system's attempt to sequester foreign or infectious matter by encapsulating it.
In this case, the granulomas contained something highly similar to silicone. The woman's breast implants, found on a scan to, be leaking, were removed, and her condition improved considerably over the following months, although not entirely.
The patient's diagnosis? Autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants, or ASIA—a wildly unpredictable inflammatory response to foreign substances injected or inserted into the human body.
This case study, published last month in the American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports, claims to be the first to describe ASIA occurring in the form of breast implant material migrating to a patient's face.1
However, it is only a drop in the ocean of reports on ASIA. The medical literature contains hundreds of such cases. They describe dreadful conditions, even some deaths, caused by the immune system's fearsome reaction to alien material—anything from vaccine ingredients to surgical implants, contraceptive devices, cosmetic fillers and even tattoo ink.
In 2011, Israeli physician and immune researcher Yehuda Shoenfeld proposed a new umbrella term for all of the diverse immune reactions to foreign substances—or adjuvants—in the body. He called it ASIA, and it is now sometimes called Shoenfeld's syndrome.2
Shoenfeld is the founder of the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. In his more than four decades practicing immunology, he has authored or edited 35 textbooks on the immune system and published more than 1,850 research papers in medical journals.
The adjuvants Shoenfeld refers to in ASIA syndrome are substances or toxins capable of whipping the immune system into action. The persistent presence of these materials in some individuals provokes vague and sundry symptoms—chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, sleep disturbances, cognitive impairment, skin rashes and more—though Shoenfeld recognizes that they share the common underlying trigger of certain immune signaling pathways. Sometimes this low-grade inflammation can smolder for years only to suddenly incite an overt autoimmune disease.
A global epidemic
Illnesses that result from a dysfunctional or hyper-stimulated immune system have been growing in prevalence year on year. Chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalitis), once a rare "hypochondriac" disorder, now affects millions of people globally and has been strongly associated with markers of immune system dysfunction.3
One in thirteen American children has a hyperactive immune system resulting in food allergy,4 and asthma, another chronic inflammatory disease of the immune system, affects 300 million people across the globe.5 Severe neurological disorders like autism (which now affects one in 22 boys in some US states) have soared from virtual nonexistence and are also linked to a damaged immune system.6
Behind these more clearly defined conditions lies the huge specter of autoimmune disease, where the immune system turns its immense assault capability mistakenly on some healthy cells or other component of the body.
The prevalence of autoimmune disease has been steadily increasing for three decades, until now it is estimated to impact 12.5 percent of the global population.7 That's 950 million people worldwide with at least one of more than 80 recognized conditions, each affecting different tissues in the body.
Many of these diseases are cruel—crippling, painful or disfiguring like multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Frequently, the victims are young. Some are killers, like lupus erythematosus, which is currently the fifth leading cause of death among young women.
Mainstream medicine considers all these autoimmune and inflammatory conditions chronic and incurable.
To better understand the phenomenon, Shoenfeld founded a global conference where experts in various fields exchange research and ideas. This spring, he hosted the 11th International Congress on Autoimmunity in Lisbon, Portugal, which drew more than 2,400 clinicians and scientists from around the world. In dozens of sessions, the immune system's troubles with foreign viruses and toxins were discussed.
The trouble with vaccines
In one full-day session, Abdullah Watad, a resident physician at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, explained that many vaccines including the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine and the hepatitis B (Hep B) vaccine contain aluminum because of its natural ability to jump-start the immune system into action against a vaccine virus. When the practice began in the 1920s, there was no understanding of how this vaccine adjuvant worked or if it was safe—only that it did the job.
Now a well-documented neurotoxin, aluminum is known to trigger a storm of unseen immune warfare—recruiting immune system combatants like macrophages, stimulating the production of cells such as neutrophils, and increasing the secretion of inflammatory cytokines like interleukins that signal other players to swing into motion, igniting domino effects that are poorly understood but differ from natural infection.
The significance of MMF
Much has been learned about aluminum's toxicity in vaccines by a team of French researchers at the Reference Center for Neuromuscular Diseases at the University Hospital of Henri-Mondor in Créteil, just southeast of Paris.
Beginning in 1993, physicians there began noticing an increase in cases of a new and baffling condition. By 1999, neurologists Romain Gherardi and François-Jérôme Authier had encountered 70 or more of these patients, mostly women, suffering from chronic fatigue-like symptoms, including swollen lymph nodes, fever, joint and muscle pain, and exhaustion.
Biopsies of the patients' deltoid muscles revealed unusual lesions up to about a half-inch (1 cm) in diameter that were crowded with macrophages—large white blood cells of the immune system whose job is to swallow up foreign invaders. Because of this characteristic, they called the condition macrophagic myofasciitis (MMF).
More samples were sent to a different lab to determine what else was in these lesions. Authier was baffled when he got the call with the results.
"Aluminum? What?" he recalls thinking. "How does aluminum get in the muscles?" He went to his bookshelf, pulled down the last of a set of five thick immunology textbooks and thumbed through the index.
"There it was. The first thing under aluminum—vaccine adjuvants," he said in an interview at Shoenfeld's autoimmunity conference. Like most physicians, Authier said, "I had never heard of this before."
This set the French doctors on a long and still ongoing path of research. Experiments injecting aluminum vaccine adjuvant into mice revealed the astonishing finding that, rather than being excreted, the aluminum adjuvant is loaded into macrophages and transported throughout the body; it slowly migrates to distant sites—muscle, spleen, lymph nodes and, most significantly, the brain—where it remains.
"Continuously escalating doses of this poorly biodegradable adjuvant in the population should be carefully evaluated by regulatory agencies since the compound may become insidiously unsafe," the researchers concluded in their 2013 study.8
Five years later, however, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still falsely states to the public that, "Much of the small amount of aluminum that does enter the bloodstream will quickly leave your body in the urine."9
Neurologist Gherardi vehemently disagrees. "If it is biopersistent, it accumulates, and the more you put in the system, the more you have," he told the symposium. "When you inject aluminum, you inject it directly into the immune system. . . It is not the same thing as eating aluminum or drinking aluminum-rich water. You must eat one million-fold higher aluminum to get the same level of aluminum adjuvant at the level of the immune cells."
His colleague Authier presented to the congress the group's recent study showing that fluorescent PET scans of the brains of MMF patients show distinct and predictable patterns of impairment—the obvious implication being that aluminum found in the muscles may also be the cause of the brain damage.
Other speakers at the congress included aluminum researcher Matthew Mold of Keele University, UK, who presented his findings of unprecedented levels of aluminum in brain tissue samples from five deceased autism patients.10
Israeli researcher Shani Dahan presented a case of heart attack death in a 20-year-old woman after HPV vaccination. She had developed an irregular heart rhythm three weeks after her first dose of Merck's aluminum-laden vaccine but was given second and third doses despite the initial reaction.
"A week following the third vaccination, she started to experience several symptoms including dizziness, joint pain and unusual fatigue," said Dahan. "Less than three weeks later, she was unfortunately found dead from cardiac arrest during her night's sleep."
Dahan's ongoing research looks at the possible autoimmune mechanisms underlying such a sudden death—there are more than 400 fatalities recorded on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) linked to the HPV vaccine alone.
In a recent review article Shoenfeld co-wrote with colleagues including Lluís Luján, a professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Zaragoza who has identified ASIA syndrome in commercial sheep after vaccination, the authors outline the medical literature showing that adjuvants, particularly those in vaccines, can induce human autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Sjögren syndrome "even without co-administration of a specific [vaccine] antigen."11
Aluminum is not the only powerful immune-stimulating ingredient added to vaccines. Gulf War syndrome, which affected tens of thousands of soldiers deployed in the first Gulf War, also has the familiar ASIA symptoms of fatigue, muscle pain, inflammation and autoimmune disease onset, and has been connected to the use of squalene, a type of oil, as an adjuvant in the anthrax vaccine.12
Rather than public health agencies embracing the critical work of these investigators in exposing a clear public health hazard that should be removed, their research has been ignored or discredited. "It is difficult," the French neurologist Authier said in conversation, referring to attacks on the team's professional credibility.
Instead, much of the momentum for aluminum research comes from patient advocacy groups and charities like the Children's Medical Safety Research Institute, "dedicated to finding and funding research to reduce the epidemic of chronic autoimmune disease."
Vaccine safety is not the only field of research to be snubbed by mainstream medicine. The idea that silicone could provoke an immune response also continues to be controversial.
"Silicone has been thought to be an inert material for many years," Watad told the congress. "In the last decade, we see many case reports showing the induction of autoimmune phenomena after exposure to silicone breast implants but also to other types of silicone, because we know that silicone is involved in many pieces of medical equipment."
As in the case of the California woman with silicone in her face, the substance has been shown to migrate and to interact with different components of the immune system, triggering sometimes enormous inflammatory responses.
Besides breast implants, in the past year alone, hundreds of women have brought complaints to the Australian Senate about complications from transvaginal mesh implants that they had received as a treatment for incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse caused by weakened muscles in the pelvis.
Some of their testimony, transcribed in a report issued by the Senate in March this year, details horrific stories of suffering—from chronic pain so severe they were unable to walk or sit to partners being injured by the mesh forcing itself out of the body through the vaginal wall.
The Australian report recommends that the "overused" devices should be used only as a "last resort" and that all financial incentives for their use should be removed from the health system.13
Polypropylene mesh has been used since 1962 for prolapses and pelvic hernia repairs, but until now, the disastrous consequences of the treatment have rarely been discussed so publicly.
At the conference in Lisbon, Jan Willem Cohen Tervaert, a rheumatologist at University of Alberta Hospital, presented his findings from a study of 40 patients he had treated between 2014 and 2017 who had received a mesh implant.
He had wondered if their severe local pain and inflammation was also systemic, and he found that 39 of the 40 also reported chronic fatigue, 38 experienced muscle and joint pain, and 36 felt feverish, while other symptoms included stroke-like symptoms, severe localized pain, Raynaud's syndrome, heightened allergies and severe irritable bowel syndrome. Two took their own lives in response to the condition.
Tervaert determined that all of the patients met the criteria for ASIA syndrome, and all of them had immune system markers that indicated systemic, or chronic, immune system involvement in their disease.
Similar reactions are occurring with certain birth control devices. The US Food and Drug Administration has logged complaints from nearly 27,000 women who received Bayer Pharmaceuticals' Essure permanent birth control implants since 2002. The Essure system—two small metal coils that look like mechanical pen springs—is inserted into a woman's fallopian tubes, where it is designed to create an inflammatory reaction that produces scar tissue, which blocks sperm from fertilizing eggs.
Women on Facebook groups dedicated to the devices have complained of debilitating chronic pain, fatigue, migraines and the onset of autoimmune diseases including lupus and arthritis.
While no one appears to have systematically studied these women to see if they meet the syndrome criteria, the general profile fits with the ASIA paradigm of the immune system responding with a powerful defense against a foreign invasion.
But people aren't the only living things suffering from toxic slow-motion poisoning. Studies of dogs, cats and even horses are showing similar reactions that fit the ASIA profile.
Dr Laurel Gershwin, a veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, said the veterinary field as a whole is becoming increasingly aware of the sometimes devastating health consequences of "over-vaccinating" animals and is taking steps to reduce the number of pet vaccines.
Although most vets still call in pets for annual boosters with the same dose for a one-pound Chihuahua as a 150-pound St. Bernard, an increasing number of veterinary agencies have recommended vaccinating every three years instead of annually, and some vets, if they can, avoid shots for animals with eczema or a reaction history, or do antibody blood tests to determine if dogs already have immunity to avoid more vaccines.
Now it's time that the agencies charged with protecting human beings begin to do the same.
Vaccine additives: a shot in the dark
As noted in Yehuda Shoenfeld's 2015 medical textbook Vaccines and Autoimmunity (Wiley), vaccines contain a long list of reactive ingredients, including formaldehyde, monosodium glutamate (MSG), DNA contaminants from aborted fetus cell lines used to grow the viruses, monkey kidney cells and more.
"[A] typical vaccine formulation contains all the necessary biochemical components to induce autoimmune manifestations," wrote Shoenfeld. Even the trace amounts of residual contaminants "may not be inherently safe."
The book outlines a host of grave vaccine-induced diseases from autoimmune ovarian failure (infertility) and the sleep disorder narcolepsy to paralyzing Guillain-Barré syndrome and brain inflammation.
The ASIA registry
To raise awareness in the medical community, Yehuda Shoenfeld and other specialists in his field have created a registry of ASIA patients for doctors to describe the exposure, symptoms, diagnostic results and treatments of their patients who fit ASIA criteria.
Since the ASIA registry launched in 2011, it's been vastly underutilized. Only 316 cases have been recorded—most of them reactions to the hepatitis B and other vaccines.
Better use of this registry could highlight problems in public health, collate data on those who are most at risk of immune disease from vaccines and other foreign agents, help to understand immune disease and enable better treatment for all those who have already been injured.
To report a case, visit: info.cmsri.org/blog/new-autoimmune-disease-registry.
ASIA in our animals
Ten-year-old Jack, a blonde poodle mix, was in great health when he trotted off for his annual veterinary check-up in the spring of 2015. "The dog I walked into the doctor's office with was not the dog I walked out with," his owner, Jeanette Fromkin, told her local South Florida news station.
At the appointment, Jack got three 'booster' vaccinations against rabies, distemper and kennel cough, and that day he started growling at his owners and showing other out-of-character behaviors.
Within days the little dog was lying immobile on the floor, his back legs paralyzed.
Videos on YouTube show Jack over the next several months, panting rapidly, at times barely able to stand to drink water, and with uncontrollable muscle movements, his head bobbing unnaturally or compulsively walking around in circles.
Also presenting in Lisbon was University of California, Davis, veterinarian Laurel Gershwin, who reported data on the growing phenomenon of autoimmune diseases in animals, which parallel emerging human diseases.
Her slideshow was a catalog of animal misery: dogs with ulcerated noses and paws or itchy skin rashes, diabetes, thyroid disease and lupus. One photo showed a lethargic and anorexic cocker spaniel with a lip raised to expose white gums that should have been bright pink—evidence of an immune system attack on red blood cells called immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMTP), and documented to follow MMR, influenza and other vaccinations in humans.1
"The full group of autoimmune diseases that is described in people does occur in dogs and incidentally in cats and horses as well," said Gershwin.
These also include:
• Guillain-Barré syndrome—with symptoms like paralysis, blindness from uveitis (eye inflammation) and myasthenia gravis, an immune condition affecting skeletal muscle. Affected dogs have to be fed in special chairs to hold their food down.
• Cancerous tumor development at the vaccine injection site, affecting one in 1,000 to 10,000 cats vaccinated.2
• A high incidence of reactions among cats—2,560 reported cases of adverse events within 30 days of vaccination among 496,189 cats, or about one in 200 cats.3
• Neurological symptoms possibly linked to vaccinations include "head tremor/bobbing, encephalitis [brain inflammation], head pressing, convulsion/seizure, rigidity, weakness, impaired mental state, abnormal posture, ataxia [lack of muscle coordination], high stepping, recumbency and altered reflexes," according to a Canadian report.4
• In dogs, the greatest risk of reactions is among young adult, small-breed, neutered males getting multiple vaccines. So concluded a Purdue University study showing 4,678 adverse reactions among 1,226,159 dogs (38.2/10,000, or about one in 250 dogs vaccinated).5
What to do if you've got ASIA
Currently, mainstream medicine's standard treatments for ASIA are limited to steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs.
For the vast majority of patients, "long-lasting remission still remains elusive."1
Here are some other holistic options:
Remove the foreign element stimulating the immune system. A 2017 review of the literature found that 75 percent of women who had breast implants surgically removed (469 of 622 cases) experienced an improvement in their complaints.
However, only three of 18 women showed a substantial improvement in their autoimmune symptoms.
Ingest a chemical binder to 'chelate' it out of the body. Christopher Exley, a bioinorganic chemist and aluminum expert at Keele University in the United Kingdom, discovered serendipitously that aluminum-poisoned fish recovered spontaneously when placed in silicon-rich water—the ionic silica bound to aluminum ions, flushing them out of their systems.
This natural silicon is not to be confused with silicone, like that found in breast implants, which is a man-made polymer that contains silicon.
Data from Exley's lab and others show that drinking silicon-rich water significantly increases the excretion of aluminum in patients with Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis.2 It may be of benefit to people whose immune systems are responding to the adjuvant aluminum found in vaccines, too.
Professor Exley himself drinks over 2 pints (1 liter) of a silicon-rich mineral water every day, "the only way that I know to help to protect my body from the possible toxicity of aluminum."
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Many patients report reversing complex immune diseases like ASIA by adopting strict anti-inflammatory diets (see WDDTY January 2016).
Avoid highly inflammatory processed foods that damage the gut lining, allowing food proteins to "leak" out and keep the hyperactive immune system going.3 Also avoid other documented inflammatory ingredients such as gluten, sugar, grains and dairy.
Clearly though, prevention is the best policy.