July 13, 2010. Blastocystis is a single-celled protozoan-like organism that is transmitted through contaminated food and water. Most adults, and many children who are infected with Blastocystis will experience abdominal pain, diarrhea and fatigue. Other symptoms frequently mentioned are skin rashes, joint pain, and neurological problems.
When taken together with other microbes like the HIV virus, E. coli, and West Nile, Blastocystis is one of many diseases which really didn't exist to a significant degree in the US until the 1980's. Since then, Blastocystis has emerged to become the most prevalent protozoal infection in the country - in California in 2000, almost 1 in 4 stool samples submitted to one labs contained Blastocystis. It is important because (unlike West Nile and E. coli), the infection doesn't go away in most patients on its own. And US doctors have been given no guidance, reliable diagnostics, or reliable treatments for the infection. The NIH has opposed earmarking any money for clinical work in Blastocystis, despite multiple requests from Congress. Likewise, the CDC has refused to take any action despite requests from Congress as well.
The result? The infection moves into towns, makes everyone sick, and there is no response by the medical community or the public health system. So far, Blastocystis rates have been highest in California, Oregon, Ohio, Florida, New York State, and some other states. Because there is no cure over the long term, rates will increase.
How can you tell if Blastocystis has gotten to your town yet? BRF has worked to organize studies to screen people, but this is surprisingly difficult. Even a small screening study can cost $5000-$10,000 and that's twice BRF's annual budget. BRF has asked for help from the CDC and NIH, and both organizations have refused to take any action.
But there are other ways to find out when Blastocystis has come to your town. As one can expect, when 10-30% of a town is infected with something, this will change the way people behave. Here are a few things to look for:
(1) There is a 3-month waiting list to see a Gastroenterologist.
(2) A large number of alternative health practitioners (AHPs) setup shop to treat patients with nebulous diseases (irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia). A study found that a large number of patients who see AHP's are infected with diseases that have emerged in the last 15 years (Blastocystis and D. fragilis), and that the medical community is generally ignoring.
(3) The toilet in the men's room is often splattered with blood.
(4) Your town has to expand its endoscopy/colonoscopy center, even though there was no increase in the town's population.
(5) It becomes necessary for schools and businesses to accommodate elaborate exclusion diets, which will usually include gluten, corn, sugar, artificial sweeteners, ice cream and chocolate. alf the families you meet will have someone with "multiple food allergies" which have developed in the last 10 years. Kids (and parents) have long lists of food they can't eat and have to buy special foods at the grocery store.
(6) The special foods section at the grocery store gets very large. A gluten free bakery opens in town, or your supermarkets begin carrying lots of gluten free foods: Many Blastocystis patients are able to reduce the severity of their symptoms by avoiding gluten. This is not the same as Celiac's disease, which effects less than 1% of the population. Blastocystis patients will not test positive on Celiac tests; their intolerance to gluten begin once they are infected; and it ends if they are cured.
(7) Kids have to stay home sick much longer. Adults have to take more sick days for themselves.
(8) There is a 2-3 months waiting list to see a Dermatologist or Rheumatologist.
(9) The Psychiatrists in town stop accepting patients because their practices fill up. The suicide rate in town increases.