Bacteriophages & Hidradenitis suppurativa: Helping deal with the physical appearance of HS
The ultimate, deadliest nanotechnology provided by nature which was discovered about 100 years ago and is finally receiving the attention it longed deserved. Also referred to as phages, bacteriophage is a bacterial virus; a type of virus that attacks bacteria. The term translates into ‘bacteria eater’.
The discovery of bacteriophages dates back to 1896 by Ernest Hankin who studied the properties of the water from the River Ganges in India. It was believed that the Ganges had healing abilities and antibacterial properties, which led to the study of the water. After seeing that colonies of cholera bacteria which were found in the tap water, had died after he added water from the Ganges, he decided to continue the study. Ernest Hankin first decided to use boiled water from the Ganges and filtered water.
This led to results showing that the filtered water persevered the antibacterial properties, unlike the boiled sample, which led him to eliminate heat as a factor that resulted in bactericidal properties. In 1917 by Felix d’Herelle, furthered the study and discovered the bacteriophages which were present and responsible for the healing abilities. Up to 40% of bacteria in the ocean are killed by bacteriophages every day. Bacteriophages were very popular in the 1920 ad 1930s and still are used in Georgia and Russia, as well as an institute in Germany.
Bacteriophages: What are they and How do they function?
Like other viruses, they need a host for survival. But unlike many viruses, their hosts are not our cells, but those of bacteria that are harmful to us. Their DNA makeup focuses on specific types of bacteria or a family group of bacteria, and each bacteriophage focuses on just that bacteria or bacterium. Once they enter an environment, they seek out a specific bacterium.
Once they find it, they attach themselves on it and injects its nucleic acid into the bacteria. Following the injection of their genome, rapid reproduction begins to replicate and develop mini bacteriophages. The replication process keeps going until the host bacterium is filled with new bacteriophages. At this moment, each new bacteriophage releases endolysin, which is an enzyme that digests the cellular wall of the bacterium they are inside of, which causes the host bacteria to explode and release the new bacteriophages, which is how the bacteriophages destroy the bacteria. The new bacteriophages search for other host bacteria to continue the cycle. If they do not find a host, they will die and will get washed out of our system as a waste product.
Bacteria will also evolve to mask themselves from bacteriophages. If you were to imagine a written sentence, and if you were to take one letter and change its colour, that will be enough to change the sentence, therefore mask the bacteria. Bacteriophages will also need to evolve to be able to recognize the newly masked bacteria, in order to recognize it. This is why it is recommended for patients to give a culture test to institutes that have an entire library of bacteriophages. This way, they will be able to cultivate a specific bacteriophage treatment just for you.
Institutes that have been continuing the study of bacteriophages, have an entire collection of different bacteria and help culture bacteriophages that recognize and attract them. Researchers took samples of the worst bacteria, mainly those found in hospitals, to be able to cultivate bacteriophages against them. The more samples the institutes have a larger variety of bacteriophages they will have for treatment.
Bacteriophages: Why now?
The research surrounding bacteriophages was put aside due to the rise of the commercial trend of pharmaceutical giants, such a Big Pharma with Rockefeller at the top of the pyramid. The promotion and market of antibiotics grew, which left no room for bacteriophages.
Today, however, we are finally facing the consequences of antibiotics, with many people being resistant to antibiotics, therefore the antibiotics are no longer effective. Many reasons are causing this resistance, mainly being that bacteria adjust and evolve towards our antibiotics and our treatments no longer affect them. Their adjustment towards our cures are much faster than our production of newer cures.
Another thing that plays a role in the resistance is that our food, mainly meat and fish, contain a certain dose of antibiotics and when ingested, the dose is not high enough to be effective, however, it is low enough for bacteria to build their own immunity and evolve with resistance towards antibiotics. Bacteriophages, unlike antibiotics, do not destroy all bacteria (good and bad). Each has a specific bacterium or bacteria that they focus on, which makes the treatment for patients non-invasive, unlike the treatment with antibiotics, after which the patient needs to restore healthy bacteria, mainly in the digestive system.
A bigger concern is towards patients who get infected by superbugs, which are bacteria that have become immune to any sort of treatment. The spread of superbugs with every day may result in deaths from a superbug to be as high as deaths caused by cancer. This is what is causing even pharmaceutical giants to dust off the research from 100 years ago and revive the study.
Another interesting fact to note is that there seems to be no side effects to using bacteriophages to battle bacteria within our bodies. They are actually considered to be not only efficient but also the least invasive to the body and hospitals in countries that use them, also give them to newborn patients who have bacterial infections.
Currently, the treatment using bacteriophages isn’t too expensive, however with pharmaceuticals now looking into this, it is not doubt that they will inflate the prices to make sure they are earning a good sum out of it.
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), also known as Verneuil’s disease or acne inversa, is a long-term chronic and very painful inflammatory skin condition. The causes of HS are still unknown, and the condition has more names than management treatments, unfortunately. Hidradenitis suppurativa is not contagious, not cancerous, not a result of poor hygiene, it is not acne, not an STD and it is not bacterial. It has been associated with several autoimmune conditions. Although the underlying cause of Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is classified to be autoinflammatory, patients present skin inflammation which when studied has shown bacteria to be present.
I will not be posting any images as I understand that not everyone is used to graphic images from medical research papers, as well as not to make anyone feel uncomfortable. I will, however, describe what HS looks like, feels and the different stages of progression.
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS): What is it?
Hidradenitis suppurativa presents itself as an inflamed lump under the skin. The inflammation is the physical manifestation of HS. It first feels like an ingrown hair, however normally the size a pea or almond. It is pinkish to red and is hot to the touch. These lumps form in the regions where the apocrine glands are found. The lump causes two different, but both excruciating types of pains.
The first type of pain is the lump itself, which feels as though something under the skin is slowly ripping the material apart (which is the inflammation). The second pain is centralized on the top surface of the lump (where the skin is the thinnest), and even the slightest touch with cotton wool feels like a razor blade. The lumps can reach the size of a golf ball and you can have not only one but several at one time. The pain from a large lump will spread, for instance, if you have a lump the size of a golf ball in your underarm, you will feel pain on the side of your chest, neck, arm, and back, which will decrease your mobility due to the pain. Ordinary pain killers also don’t help with the pain, unless you can get your hands on something which will simply knock you out.
These lumps will either subside, while your immune system can still attack and fight the bacteria which is trapped in the follicle area under the skin, or they will become leaking sores, in which case the inflammation caused by the infection cannot be fought by your body and the only way out is through the skin. After one lump subsides, your skin remains with scars.
Doctors still don’t know the reason patients suffer from HS mainly because it is considered not life-threatening, so resources aren’t allocated to its study. Also, many patients get misdiagnosed, others may not even know they have it or are too embarrassed to go to the doctor. Some doctors say it may be genetic or environmental however neither have been proven to be a solid fact. HS affects women as much as men and in most cases appears in the post-pubescent period or, in the case for women, after giving birth.
Several doctors have described stages of HS; however, this is a breakdown from the variety of stages combined:
Stage 1: Solitary or multiple abscesses with minimal scarring. The size of lumps is about the size of a pea or almond.
Stage 2: Recurrent, single or multiple abscesses with lesions. The size of lumps may still remain almond size or may become the size of a walnut.
Stage 3: Entire areas effected with multiple and interconnected abscesses and deep lesions. The lump sizes can extend from the size of a walnut up to the size of a golf ball.
What triggers the lumps to reoccur and the timing between the breakout is also hard to track. In my own experience, after my first appearance of HS, when I was 10 years old, the lumps weren’t back until a few months. As I got older the timing intervals got shorter, until the past decade or so there were only a few days in a month when my body was clear from multiple lumps in one time. I am categorized to be stage three, as my body no longer even reacts to the outbreak and for many years I have pretty much lived in a constant outbreak.
The first lump I got at the age of 8, was in my underarm and it did not present itself as HS normally does. It was not a small lump, but the entire underarm was swollen. Doctors have been a little confused as to how young I was when my HS started, as well as the way it presented itself. The timing between breakouts used to be dependent on the hormonal cycle, as well as any environmental change that would either freeze the process for a little or speed it up. However, for many years now, neither factors play a part in the process.
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS): Your life and lifestyle
Hidradenitis suppurativa is not life-threatening, as far as studies show, however it does diminish the quality of life. While others have the choice of what clothes to mix and match, HS sufferers face simple things like what to wear and being able to go to the beach or even feeling well enough to leave your house is a luxury. Many sufferers of HS suffer from depression, lowered self-esteem, and simply pure embarrassment. They view their skin as a gross way of their bodies working against them and many keep this to themselves, to avoid facing a world that is ready to jump to judgment at every tiny imperfection.
The definition of beauty is constantly changing and therefore perfection really does lay in the mind of every person individually. Social media is filled with what society considers as beauty. It goes so far as having photos and posts from women talking about how one must love themselves and should wear their wrinkles and stretch marks, as though they are battle wounds. Every time I would come across such content, the first thing that comes to mind is whether these people know just how lucky they are that all they have to worry about is the most natural of markings on their skin.
The second thought is whether these people are aware that they were actively adding to today’s illusional image of beauty. Shining the spotlight brighter on the most normal of things, bringing more attention to them and making even those that never saw imperfections with their body, doubt themselves and feel ashamed of their bodies. All the while, posting a photo of a perfectly toned body with a caption saying that everyone should be happy with their bodies.
We are constantly being sold the image of how we should look like we are factory-made. The worst part is the total disregard towards issues that actually matter. For instance, shining a light on health conditions which may not be life-threatening, but certainly play a role in the quality of life you have. These conditions aren’t trendy enough, which leave people suffering and being bombarded with images of other people who fuel the industry of perfection, instead of focusing on matters less trendy, but which bring more value.
For everyone who enjoys to ride the wave of trend and boost their virtual popularity, before that wave dies out and something else becomes hip, keep in mind that you are simply adding fuel to a burning flame. There is not even one human being who is totally healthy. Everyone is fighting a battle within. For some it is physical, for others it is mental or emotional. We are all flawed and we are all different. That is why the vision of perfection is simply an illusion which is temporary and yet can make some serious and sometimes permanent damage.
These narrow beauty norms leave no place for people who have health issues, some of which are seen on the skin, others that are restricted within the body. I am talking about people who could only wish to have wrinkles and stretch marks to worry about because what they face on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, is something that people who think a stretch mark is ugly and disgusting, would probably disregard this person as a human being altogether.
Just think of what those who talk so loudly about cellulite and stretch marks, would think of a person who literally has countless deep scars in areas on their skin. Scars that look as though a drunken surgeon dug deep into their skin with a scalpel and forgot to stitch them up. If they give so much attention to the most normal and natural markings such as a stretchmark, a person who carries these abnormal scars would never be able to live up to their standards.
Yes, I am that person with countless scars. Quite literally countless because there are too many to count. For many years I was too busy focused on agonizing pain that is caused by what comes prior to those scars, to even bother myself on whether or not I should meet society’s beauty standards. It may have turned me not only into a black sheep, but into an entirely different species amongst the rest, but at least I didn’t allow others to tell me what I should feel or look. I was busy looking for something that meant a lot more not only to me but for others.
Believe it or not but I don’t even have the time to obsess on those scars. Those scars are a relief to me because they are reminders that a cycle of agonizing pain has been completed and for a few days I can be like everyone else.. until the cycle starts again.
I am not writing this post for others to feel sorry for me. I am writing this post because I want to share my story and possibly help others who may have run out to solutions. For many years, my HS has been kept to myself, not because I was ashamed, as to why would I be? I kept it to myself and within the closest people to me because I knew that if I was to share it with the world, I would receive blank faces that had no idea what I was dealing with, followed by the phrase which makes me want to jump out of my own skin “I’m sorry you poor thing”. I knew surfaced pity talk wouldn’t bring me closer to a cure.
Whilst keeping things to myself, there wasn’t a rock I hadn’t turned. I have tried all the possible treatments and medications that came my way, except for surgery and chemo. I was resilient to find a cure. There were days I would feel defeated, during those days I would give myself a break. But shortly after, I would feel empowered to fight the good fight and get back on my feet, so I did, and here I am.
However, I made myself a promise that when I found a cure (“if” was never an option), that I would share it with everyone. Sharing this piece of my life with the rest of the world was only worth doing if it meant that I could pass on some good news and help other people who suffered the way I did.
Cure for the inflammation caused by Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)
Hidradenitis suppurativa is seen to be an autoinflammatory condition which presents itself by means of an inflammation under the skin. The inflammation is the only physical appearance of HS. It is also the biggest battle for sufferers because if it wasn’t for the inflammation, those with HS wouldn’t even know they have it. In my reality, I no longer care what the underlying reason is for HS or why my immune system allows for bacteria to get trapped and doesn’t flush it out of my system. I care about making sure that my body is getting rid of unnecessary elements that cause harm to my body and diminish my life.
For almost 20 years I have battled with myself. Finally, I can openly say that I have found a cure to help with the inflammation that is caused by HS. The true underlying reason as to why HS affects people may never be known, however dealing with the aftermath it causes is, in itself a breath of fresh air. Throughout my journey, I have tried many different treatment methods. The only treatments I refused to go for were retinoids, chemotherapy, TNF-alpha blockers (such as Humira) and surgery. The first three were too much of my health to pay for HS and surgery is useless. Some patients go for the surgical option to remove the infection during a breakout and also to avoid scarring, however, that is all a physical and temporary fix, because the next time around, another lump will appear, either next to the previous site or somewhere else.
Apart from all those treatments I refused, I have tried a collection of antibiotics, corticosteroids, blood transfusion, also a whole variation of soaps and anti-bacterial solutions to at least prevent or manage the condition. Some even suggested getting laser hair removal to help reduce the chance of breakouts by focusing on the initial sites where the inflammation manifests, however that was once again a useful course of action.
Nothing seemed to work until the natural nanotech bacteria eaters, Bacteriophages.
I hadn’t done a culture; however, the specialists gave me two bacteriophages which attack a wide range of bacteria. One was for Staphylococcus (one of the widest spread bacteria which is found in our bodies) and the second being a combination bacteriophage aimed at Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Proteus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas.
Each pack had 5 glass sealed bottles of 10ml which can be ingested after taking a mix of 2-3% baking soda solution (one glass, 150-250 ml) or is used as a disinfecting agent by phage soaked bandages and applied directly into a cavity. My course of treatment was to drink 1 bottle on the first and on the next day 1 bottle of the second type. My whole course of treatment was 20 bottles (10 of the first and 10 of the second, interchanging).
During my course of treatment, no new lumps appeared and those that were present, for the first time in many years, began to subside and disappear. The only odd feeling I felt was slight itchiness in the area of the underarm where my very first HS lump appeared when I was 10 years old. This sensation lasted for about a week and never returned.
For 3 months straight, I did not have even one lump appear. On my 4th month I noticed a small lump appear, however it did not grow as the lumps before. It appeared slightly and stopped growing. Within 2 days, it disappeared. Once I noticed it, I decided to take a booster round of treatment. I kept to the same bacteriophages, but this time took half the dose.
I am very well aware that 20 bottles of bacteriophages, couldn’t have possibly cleared my system out completely. Bacteria also adjusts and adapts to bacteriophages to mask itself from them being recognized. I will definitely go for a culture test in the near future, once I have finished my booster doses, to see which bacteria is the most persistent in the body, and to get bacteriophages cultivated specifically for them.
A possibility of a whole new life
By no way am I prescribing Bacteriophages to any readers. The treatment using Bacteriophages is not like a Panadol with one dose to fit all. It is individualized to each patient. However, informing those who have searched far and wide and are still seeking for a solution. I am keeping my word and I am passing on the knowledge I gained through years of searching and trying on my own flesh. I am sharing what worked for me.
I grew up surrounded by doctors in my family, and I have gone and searched for help from numerous doctors outside of the family. Just because someone has an MD does not mean they have all the answers. From my own experience, I met doctors who had no idea what Hidradenitis suppurativa was, some who were extremely rude and insisted it was a simple allergy.
I didn’t stop there. I continued to get fourth and fifth advice from other doctors and professors, some who have spent years studying Hidradenitis suppurativa, and they were nowhere close to understanding what triggers it, let alone what cures it. However, once I knew that the Bacteriophages worked for me, I contacted the doctors I knew were invested into understanding HS and passed on the knowledge I tested, in hopes that this may be a piece of a puzzle that would help their research move forward, and they can help other sufferers in the process.
Bacteriophages may not cure Hidradenitis suppurativa, they do however help treat the symptoms. Hidradenitis suppurativa is auto inflammatory and balancing out your immune system seems to help to get a handle on it. I have had some very positive results with intermittent fasting. You can read all about it and the science behind it in my article on the 8 hour diet & Intermittent fasting.
UPDATE – Check out the article which covers my HS journey and the effects of phage therapy after a year. If phages interest you, you can read more on the situation surrounding them in the hidden truth of bacteriophages.