Are Worry-Free Transfusions Just a Whiff of Ozone Away? by Albert C. Baggs, BSc.
Medical Science News, Canadian Medical Assoc; April 1993
Scientists in Canada and the United States are investigating the use of ozone to destroy the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the hepatitis and herpes viruses and other infectious agents in the blood used for transfusion. The studies were endorsed by medical circles of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) because of a concern that viral pandemics have compromised the ability of world banks to meet urgent and heavy military demands.
NATO's fears are justified. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently estimated that more than 200 million people are long-term carriers of hepatitis B virus and that about 13 million people are infected with known HIV strains. The spread of HIV is being impelled by socioeconomic factors and a worldwide recession. As HIV spreads, an increase in the rejection rate of blood donors, now exceeding 30%, must be expected.
Laboratories in Canada, the United States and other countries have evidence that sterilization with ozone is feasible. In a brief to the NATO Blood Committee, the Surgeon General of the Canadian Armed Forces reported on Canadian findings that a three minute ozonation of serum spiked with one million HIV-1 particles per cc would achieve 100% viral inactivation. It was also found that the procedure would destroy several other lipid-encapsulated viruses, including simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and various other animal strains.
Canadian interest in the technique stems from early German successes in the 1950s, and from in-vitro studies with ozone by Captain Michael E. Shannon, a scientist in the Department of National Defence. His experiments led to a pilot study using ozone-treated blood in a volunteer group of 24 patients with AIDS at the Ottawa General Hospital (approved by the Health Protection Branch and the hospital's ethics committee).
The Canadian experiments with HIV and other viruses gas-exchange technology from Mueller Medical International Inc. (Oakville, Ont.) with help from Medizone International Inc. (New York). Two teams of U.S. virologists have used comparable equipment to confirm the Canadian results. Red blood cells showed no impairment in either study.
Ozone has long been used to destroy bacteria in municipal water supplies. Its efficacy is partly attributed to the oxidation of unsaturated bonds in the phospholipid and lipoprotein architecture of bacteria, viruses and infected cells. The oxidation generates hydro-peroxides, which are transformed to peroxyl and hydroxyl radicals and to other reactive species, including aldehydes. Peroxyl radicals attack proteins, and hydroxyl radicals induce disruptive structural changes in cell membranes. Virus-infected cells are unable to withstand the oxidation due to deficient cell wall enzymes. Thus, at even low ozone concentrations, infective agents can be destroyed selectively without damage to healthy tissue.
Several other mechanisms have been postulated for the destruction of HIV:
- inactivation of viral reverse transcriptase, which would otherwise take over host DNA
- oxidation of the essential cation cofactor of the transcriptase, and
- interference with the ability of the HIV envelope glycoprotein gp 120 to bind to the lymphocyte receptor CD4.
To prove these concepts, a pilot study was undertaken. It was a collaborative effort between scientists at the Department of National Health and Welfare, the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Animal Disease Research institute and Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
It addressed the fundamental question: Will whole blood experimentally contaminated with a highly virulent strain of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) produce immunodeficiency disease in primates if the blood is treated with ozone before transfusion?
The answer came back loud and clear: Ozone protected all simian subjects from infection by cleaning all viruses from the blood.
The systematic use of ozone in the treatment of AIDS could not only reduce the virus load, but also possibly revitalize the immune system. Several German and Italian studies have shown that ozone enhances the production of interleukin-2 and interferon-y.
Findings at laboratories in North America and Europe have demonstrated that ozone has remarkable potency against disease factors in blood products. Blood approved for transfusion must be certified to be free of viral and bacterial contaminants, and ozone appears to fill the requirements.