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Research in Brucella infections as a possible evidence of deficiency of trace elements was prompted under the hypothesis that the presence of the micro-organism may be merely another symptom on the diverse list of such for deficiency disease and not the cause of it. It also was postulated, then, that varied nutritional deficiencies, including those of several trace elements, may be the common cause of the multiple symptoms, including the presence of these particular microbes.
Spectrographic analyses revealed the absence or some of the trace elements in certain tissues of cows suffering with Bang’s disease. Those same elements were present in the healthy cows.3 Also, cows fed salts of the trace elements manganese, cobalt, copper, and iodine were immune to the disease when exposed to it in others.4 These observations prompted trials of trace-element salt therapy for brucellosis in four human beings. Progressive changes in the blood tests toward the negative resulted, with accompanying improvements in other symptoms despite some difficulties in retaining the dosages.6
These results encouraged more extensive trials, which were made possible through the co-operative help of some eighteen hundred patients, to date, in an area where other perplexing irregularities in cattle are common and the tests of the soil emphasize the deficiencies in both the major and the trace elements requisite for agricultural production. The therapy included the use of sulfates of (a) manganese 0.2 Gm., (b) copper 2 mg., (c) cobalt 2 mg., (d) magnesium 60 mg., and (e) zinc 1.5 mg., in tablet form with enteric coating, and taken at the rate of no more than three per day. It was the observations(1) of this extensive list of patients under this therapy, (2) their past and revised dietary habits toward higher protein level and no sugar, (3) their changes in blood tests, (4) changes from hypochlorhydria to near normal, and (5) improved health conditions as a result of the ingestion of salts of trace elements that prompted this report of observations and evidence that brucellosis is a deficiency disease.
The first trials with four patients were initiated January 19, 1945. The more extensive ones were begun January 15, 1947, with the trace-element therapy minus the iodine, and with these salts under an enteric coating. This combination gave no irregularity in retaining the dose. It made possible the increasing number of volunteering patients for trials. Blood samples were taken regularly and agglutination tests were made by more than one laboratory as checks, only co find a gradual or provement in the blood picture. This change ran parallel, in general, with changes in the visible symptoms and with the patients’ enthusiastic reports of their improvements in health. These changes occurred in from three to six months in the majority of cases.
Such varied symptoms were initially present as to be too baffling for accurate diagnoses. Yet they disappeared after consumption of trace-element salts and carefully regulated, high-protein, low-sugar diets during some twelve weeks or more. Relief occurred from this vast array of symptoms, which included aches of the back, shoulders, and joints, allergies, arthritis, anorexia, hyperhidrosis, fever, constipation, enlarged spleen, mental depression, and others amounting co a list reported possibly as large as two hundred.1
The suspected and reported sources of the Brucella infections were numerous. However, among the patients given the trace-element therapy, less than three per cent could be attributed to milk as the possible source. This suggests the general prevalence of the organisms. It also raises the question whether attempts to eradicate them and escape from them offer greater hope as recommended procedure than the attempts to improve nutrition and build body resistance to them.
Among the eighteen hundred patients treated with trace elements were those with other ailments and symptoms besides those of brucellosis; some of these other ailments and symptoms were relieved as a result of this simple matter of feeding them some of the salts of manganese, cobalt, copper, zinc, and magnesium, of which there apparently was a deficiency in the regular diets of these patients.
Very significant was the observation that almost every patient’s previous dietary habits indicated possible malnutrition long before symptoms of brucellosis or other conditions inviting the physician’s attention had ever appeared.
In addition to the use of trace-element therapy for brucellosis in human beings, this same therapy now has been used for almost a year on a herd of dairy cattle with Brucella infections, abortions, difficulties in breeding, and other perplexing irregularities. During the year preceding the feeding of the trace elements to the cattle, there was a total calf crop of twenty viable calves from fifty-six cows. During the past year of trace-element therapy, each of fifty-two cows delivered a calf, including two abortions and one injured fatally. These calves were larger at birth than those of previous years. Fewer irregularities have been experienced in getting the calves started. The number of services required for a single fecundation, either by artificial or natural insemination, has been significantly less during the past year, whereas previously it had mounted to as high as fourteen. The milk production per cow has increased to push up the average for the herd to a good record.
Soil treatments with the trace elements as fertilizers for the grazing crops also have been emphasized.a As the herd started grazing on the treated soils, the previous therapy of trace elements was omitted and no irregularity was noted. However, the improved milk production was lowered when the trace elements were put into the feed again in addition to those coming with the forage. Here is a suggestion that it may be possible to overdose by adding trace-element salts to the feed if the soils already are providing these trace elements via the forages in the fields.
The blood picture of the herd also has been under observation.b There was the suggestion in the second sampling (which was the first after the therapy was introduced) that the therapy had caused the blood picture to become worse. Later samplings, however, indicate its gradual improvement, with the positive reactions moving toward the lower dilutions used in the tests, with the number of negative animals increasing, and with the number of suspects decreasing.
The soil treatments using the trace elements are being applied in addition to a carefully planned program of soil-building of higher fertility by means of the major nutrient elements applied in accordance with suggestions coming from careful testing of the soils. While it has not yet been possible to demonstrate the efficiency of the treatments of the soil with trace elements as better nutrition for prevention of Brucella infections of human beings, it is the hope that this treatment of the soil for better animal nutrition will prevent this ailment in the livestock. If it does, it will demonstrate the value of its coming by way of the soil as an initial step in the essential synthetic elaborations of these trace elements into organic combinations by microbes and plants in advance of those required in the intestinal tract, as is seemingly true for cobalt and copper.2,5 Such results with the livestock will be a step toward former belief and later proof that proper human nutrition also may mean the prevention of brucellosis and probably of other baffling aliments of mankind.
aThis animal soil aspect is under the direction of A.W. Klemmem, Extension Professor of Soils, University of Missouri.
bBlood samples have been taken by Andrew W. Uren, D.V.M., of the Veterinary Department, University of Missouri.
- Sir Weldon Dalrymple-Champneys. A Study of the Epidemiological Aspects of Undulant Fever in this Country. Public Health, September 1948.
- Lorraine S. Gall, et al. Rumen Bacteria in Cobalt-Deficient Sheep. Science, 109: 468-469, 1949.
- William Rand Keenan. History of Randleigh Farm, fourth volume, 1942.
- William Rand Keenan. History of Rundleigh Ferm, fifth volume, 1943.
- G. W. Monier-Willians. Trace Elements in Food. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, 1949.
- F. M Pottenger J. The Use of Manganese, Copper, Cobalt and Iodine in the Treatment of Undulant Fever. J. Western Med., and Surg. (in press), 1949.
Acknowledgment is made of the co-operative help of the Schrock Fertilizer Service, Congerville, Ill.; the Coronet Phosphate Company, New York, N. Y.; the Tennessee Corporation, Atlanta, Ga.; the International Minerals and Chemical Corporation, Chicago, Ill.; and the Spencer Chemical Company, Kansas City, Mo.