Controversy: Ozone Therapy for HCV
Floating in the earth’s atmosphere absorbing solar radiation, ozone molecules are composed of three oxygen atoms. Used to treat various health issues since the late 19th century, ozone therapy infuses ozone into air or liquids and introduces them into the body. Even though there are limited scientific studies of ozone therapy’s safety and efficacy, its proponents tout it as a valuable, economical alternative treatment for the Hepatitis C virus.
As the spread of the Hepatitis C (HCV) continues to gain momentum, more attention is focused on alternative methods to eliminate it. Some believe that introducing ozone molecules into the bloodstream may provide an immunity boost capable of overpowering HCV.
Part of the Immune Response
Research conducted in 2002 at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California demonstrated that ozone plays a part in the body’s immune response of destroying bacteria and viruses. The team of investigators reported that in addition to the immune cells known to destroy foreign invaders, antibodies also participate in this task. Previous to this discovery, antibodies were believed only to signal an immune response, not carry out destruction. Additionally, the Scripps team found that when antibodies destroy bacteria or viruses, they produce ozone gas.
As reported in a November 2002 issue of the journal Science, ozone may be part of a previously unrecognized killing mechanism that enhances the defensive role of antibodies. This role is actualized because antibodies can produce hydrogen peroxide – a compound mostly known as a foamy antiseptic. Hydrogen peroxide is lethal to pathogens because it pokes holes in their cell walls, bursting them and causing death. In this newly recognized function of antibodies, the researchers found that antibodies make what appears to be ozone. The proposed mechanism for this reaction involves the following steps:
- Antibodies find single oxygen molecules capable of causing oxidation and, thus, cellular damage.
- To remove the threat of cell damage, antibodies combine the single oxygen molecules with water to make hydrogen peroxide.
- When hydrogen peroxide is formed, ozone is a byproduct of the reaction.
Although this study proposes that ozone may be involved in a strong, healthy immune system, it also spawns many questions. Exactly how ozone ties in with antibodies destroying bacteria and viruses remains unclear, and it does not answer any questions about ozone therapy’s aptitude to fight viral hepatitis.
For over a century, some scientists have supported the idea that ozone has the potential to inactivate many types of bacterial and viral pathogens. The method favored for fighting HCV is blood ozonation, a process whereby:
- A portion of blood is withdrawn from the patient with HCV;
- An ozone/oxygen mixture is added to the withdrawn blood;
- The ozone/oxygen-rich blood is then returned to the patient;
- This process is typically repeated until viral load reduction is documented.
According to one of its principals, Dr. Gerard Sunnen, “Blood ozonation is an innovative technique of interfacing blood with minuscule amounts of ozone/oxygen mixtures that enhance natural cytokine and interferon production for purposes of viral clearing. This process, if successful, could greatly reduce the cost of current treatments for Hepatitis C.”
Some viruses are suspected to be more susceptible to ozone’s action than others. Researchers have confirmed that lipid-enveloped viruses are the most sensitive to ozone. As a lipid-enveloped virus, HCV stands to be one of the pathogens most easily affected by ozone therapy.
Lack of Hard Evidence
While the concept of blood ozonation stirs excitement in those concerned with fighting HCV, there is little concrete evidence to support its value. As of the end of 2007, ozone therapy has not been proven safe by scientific studies. While few treatments are completely devoid of risks, ozone therapy has been associated with some serious side effects including:
- Shortness of breath
- Blood vessel swelling
- Poor circulation
- Heart problems
Specific to blood ozonation, also known as autohemotherapy, a few associations must be eliminated before this treatment becomes accepted:
- Transmission of viral hepatitis
- Dangerously low blood cell counts
Even though blood ozonation is considered an alternative therapy, it does involve the removal and replacement of human blood. In order to assure patient safety, this process demands sterile equipment and competent practitioners upholding all aspects of sterile technique. In addition, the patient must be closely monitored to assure that a safe amount of blood is withdrawn.
Since the twentieth century, ozone therapy has been used as an alternative method of eliminating many pathogens. Although there are numerous anecdotes about successful treatment with ozone therapy, its effectiveness and safety remain inconclusive. When global interest in the role of ozone in the immune response mounts, new studies evaluating blood ozonation for HCV will ensue.
Meanwhile, the advocates of ozone therapy are waiting in the wings for studies proving the safety and efficacy of this alternative method of healing. If and when that time comes, blood ozonation could triumph over Hepatitis C – a victory the world is more than ready for.
Arab Health World, Hepatitis C and Blood Ozonation: Interview with G. Sunnen of Ozonics International, Arab Health World Magazine, July-August 2007.
Palmer, Melissa, MD, Dr. Melissa Palmer’s Guide to Hepatitis and Liver Disease, Avery Publishing, New York, 2004.
www.intelihealth.com, Ozone Therapy, Natural Standard, Harvard Medical School, 2007.
www.mediwiss.de, Ozone Therapy in Patients with Viral Hepatitis “C” – A Clinical Study, Prof. Dr. Mohamed Nabil Mawsouf, et al., Cancer Institute, Cairo University, 2007.
www.ozonicsint.com, Ozone, A Physiological Gas, is Created in Vivo, Gerard Sunnen, MD, Ozonics International, 2007.
www.pressreleasenetwork.com, New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) Stops a World First U.S. – Egyptian Collaborative Study on Hepatitis C and Blood Ozonation, Press Release Network, November 2007.
www.scripps.edu, Antibodies Produce Ozone During Bacterial Killing and Inflammation, Jason Socrates Bardi, The Scripps Research Institute, 2007.
www.triroc.com, Hepatitis C and Ozone Therapy, Gerard V. Sunnen, MD, 2007.