• One reason for the significant differences in Covid-19 susceptibility around the world may be the underlying toxicity burden of the population in each region. For example, studies have found a striking correlation between exposure to particulate air pollution and the likelihood of dying from Covid-19.
• All of the Covid-19 hot spots share a common thread of a high rate of adoption of fuels derived from biomass, nearly all of which can be predicted to be heavily contaminated with glyphosate.
• Glyphosate could be released along various stages of biodiesel fuel production and use.
• Animal studies comparing biodiesel fuel with standard diesel for their potential toxic effects indicate that biodiesel may be significantly more toxic.
• Glycerin is a major waste product of biodiesel production, and both glycerin and its byproduct propylene glycol are e-cigarette additives. Symptoms seen in vaping illness match closley with symptoms of Covid-19.
• Multiple mechanisms of glyphosate toxicity can plausibly explain the acute reaction to Covid-19 seen in patients who end up in the ICU.
• It is plausible that the rapid rollout of 5G may work synergistically with glyphosate to enhance effects seen in those with Covid-19. Annual influenza vaccination may also have increased some individuals’ susceptibility to an acute
response to Covid-19.
• The key to protecting oneself from Covid-19 is to strengthen the innate immune system. This includes eating a certified organic whole foods diet, spending significant time outside in the sunlight without sunscreen or sunglasses and avoiding toxic exhaust fumes as much as possible.
SARS coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caught the world by surprise, with a resulting pandemic of the new disease Covid-19 sweeping the world and inducing a global economic collapse. The origin of this virus is unclear, but the disease Covid-19 was first recognized in Wuhan, China, an industrial city sprawling along the banks of the Yangtze River. Whether the disease Covid-19 is even caused by the virus—and whether the virus even exists as a separate entity—are topics for debate. Further science may eventually answer these open questions.
The disease affects different people in widely disparate degrees, with some of those with a diagnosed infection not even noticing that they are sick, while others succumb to pulmonary failure or acute sepsis with multiple organ failure. Furthermore, some people with overt symptoms of Covid-19 test negative for the virus. The disease also seems to affect some countries much less than others. As reported by CNN on April 3, Iceland took the initiative to test a large segment of the population regardless of whether they showed symptoms. After testing nearly 5 percent of the population, they identified some three hundred people who tested positive. Half of them had no symptoms.1 As of May 6, 2020, only ten people in Iceland had died from Covid-19.
In contrast, the United States is being hit very hard. Within the U.S., New York State— and New York City, in particular—stand out as the epicenter of the storm. As of this writing, over twenty thousand people in New York State are reported to have died from Covid-19. Hospitals in New York City have been overwhelmed with cases requiring intensive care. Partly this is because the city is an international hub with flights arriving in a constant stream from distant parts of the world. And of course, the inherent high population density means that it is much more difficult to implement social distancing effectively. However, the number of people experiencing acute symptoms necessitating hospitalization seems way out of line compared to most other places.
THE ROLE OF AIR POLLUTION
One possibility to consider as a causative factor in Covid-19 is air pollution. Scientific investigations have revealed that viruses are present in the nanoparticles in polluted air, and it is suspected that the viruses can linger longer as infective agents when trapped in these nanoparticles.2 Whatever the role of these viruses, a study conducted by researchers at the Harvard Institute for Public Health found a striking correlation between exposure to particulate air pollution and the likelihood of dying from Covid-19.3 They decided to investigate a possible link because air pollution increases lung disease risks, which leads to a greater vulnerability to lung infection. The Harvard Institute’s study population included over three thousand U.S. counties, representing 98 percent of the population. The researchers examined averaged values for particulate levels for each county from 2000 to 2016. They found that an increase of only one microgram per cubic meter in fine particulate matter was associated with a 15 percent increase in the death rate from Covid-19.
There is something else that distinguishes New York City from other cities. This is the fact that the city has played a leading role in promoting the use of fuels derived from plants to try to reduce the consumption of petroleum and the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, with the stated goal of curbing global climate change. The past decade has been an exciting time in the advancement of technology to convert biomass into usable fuel. New York State has a large number of manufacturing plants where biomass from various sources is processed into biofuels (see Figure 1). The state also encourages homeowners to use biofuel in home heating oil, offering a tax break to those who use a blend containing at least 5 percent biodiesel heating oil. In New York City, it has been mandatory to use at least 5 percent biodiesel home heating oil since September 30, 2017.4
RISK FACTORS FOR POOR OUTCOME IN COVID-19
Several studies provide information on comorbidities associated with increased risk to severe Covid-19 disease. Fortunately, children seem to be much less susceptible than adults. The risk of dying becomes remarkably higher for the elderly compared to the younger adult population, and several chronic diseases and conditions that have become common in the industrialized world are also strong risk factors for a bad outcome.
A China-based study involving over forty-four thousand (N=44,672) confirmed cases of Covid-19 found that the overall death rate was 2.3 percent. Critical cases—defined as those that developed into respiratory failure, septic shock and/or multiple organ failure—accounted for 5 percent of the cases, and nearly half of them died. A disproportionate number of deaths occurred among those with several preconditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer (see Table 1).5
In New York City, a report analyzing risk factors for over four thousand confirmed Covid-19 patients (with a median age of fifty-two years) found that 14 percent suffered from diabetes, 26.8 percent were obese and 30.1 percent suffered from cardiovascular disease. Notably, those who were hospitalized had much higher rates of these conditions than those who stayed home (see Table 2).6
A meta-analysis of seven retrospective cohort studies on Covid-19 cases revealed that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was a remarkably strong risk factor, with nearly an eighteen-fold increased risk of ending up in the intensive care unit (ICU). This is perhaps not unexpected, given that the disease is centered in the lungs. The increased risk associated with cardiovascular disease was 4.44-fold—and it was 3.65-fold and 2.72-fold with hypertension and diabetes, respectively.7
In an April report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that described the prevalence of underlying conditions in a group of one hundred and seventy-eight confirmed patients, the CDC found that nearly half of the patients suffered from hypertension (49.7 percent) or were obese (48.3 percent), and over one-third (34.6 percent) had chronic lung disease. Over one fourth had diabetes (28.3 percent) and about the same proportion had cardiovascular disease (27.8 percent). In all, nearly 90 percent had at least one underlying condition.8
GLYPHOSATE’S UNIQUE MECHANISM OF TOXICITY
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the pervasive herbicide Roundup. Its usage on food crops has increased dramatically over the past two decades. Glyphosate is used both to control weeds (particularly those growing among genetically engineered Roundup-Ready crops such as corn, soy, canola and sugar beets) and also as a desiccant just before harvest on major food crops (such as oats, sugar cane, wheat, legumes and seed crops).
The United States uses more glyphosate per capita than any other country, and we also have an alarmingly high rate of many chronic diseases, including diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, heart disease, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, hypertension, autism and dementia. In a landmark study published in 2014, Swanson and coauthors showed that many of these chronic diseases are rising in prevalence in the U.S. population exactly in lockstep with the rise in glyphosate usage on core crops.9 Knowing that a “p-value” (a statistical measure that captures the probability that a given pattern in data could have occurred by chance) of less than 0.05 is generally considered “statistically significant” (and therefore valid), the p-values for the glyphosate-chronic disease correlations were all less than 0.00001—that is, very highly significant. The authors wrote in their conclusion, “Although correlation does not always mean causation, when correlation coefficients of over 0.95 (with p-value significance levels less than 0.00001) are calculated for a list of diseases that can be directly linked to glyphosate. . . it would be imprudent not to consider causation as a plausible explanation.” It is apparent from Table 3, which shows a subset of the data published in the Swanson paper, that most of the diseases and conditions that put a patient at high risk of a serious outcome in Covid-19 have trends over time in the U.S. that match nearly perfectly with the rise in glyphosate usage on core crops.9
Together with several collaborators, I have argued in multiple papers that glyphosate’s unique, insidious and cumulative mechanism of toxicity has to do with a proposed ability to mistakenly substitute for the coding amino acid glycine during protein synthesis.10-13 This is plausible because glyphosate is a glycine molecule—except that there is an additional attachment (a methyl-phosphonyl group) to the nitrogen atom of glycine, which changes the size and chemical and physical properties of the molecule but does not prevent it from incorporating itself into a peptide chain. It can be predicted that certain proteins will be affected in a devastating way if glyphosate should substitute for particular glycine residues known to be very important for their proper function. I have found that many of the diseases with rising prevalence can be explained through glyphosate substitution in specific proteins known to be defective in association with those diseases.
A remarkable case study shows dramatically that glyphosate and diesel fuel are a very toxic combination.14 The study involved a mechanic who tried to clean a clogged applicator for glyphosate-based herbicide using a bucket of diesel fuel as a solvent. He quickly developed a bad cough and started coughing up blood. Rushed to the hospital, he was diagnosed with pneumonitis, an inflammatory disease of the lungs caused by exposure to toxic substances. I suspect that the organic molecules in diesel fuel enhance the uptake of glyphosate by the lung cells by acting as a surfactant.
It may be significant that many of the U.S. Covid-19 hot spots are major ports such as Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Boston and New York City. An article published in 2017 investigating ship pollution in the United Kingdom revealed that air pollution from ships is generally more toxic than that from land vehicles, because they use the lowest grade of diesel fuel. It is estimated that as much as 30 percent of the pollution in UK port towns can come from ships.15
BIODIESEL FUEL PRODUCTION
The technology to produce fuels derived from biomass has come of age in the past decade or so, motivated by the imperative to reduce the consumption of petroleum and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Much recent research has gone into developing manufacturing processes that can increase yield and reduce cost in extracting useful fuels from plants, including food crops and forest debris.16,17
Different countries have taken different approaches to the problem. The U.S. has been a leader in the manufacture of ethanol for fuel use, derived mainly from corn. At gas stations across the country, one now routinely finds gasoline that has 10 percent ethanol as an additive. Brazil has also played a leadering role in ethanol production, deriving its ethanol mainly from sugar cane.
While Europe has been slower to add ethanol to gasoline, with rarely more than 5 percent added ethanol, biodiesel is a very different story with Europe being a primary leader. Europe was already much more comfortable with diesel-powered cars than the U.S., with over 20 percent of European automobiles powered by diesel fuel versus 2 percent in the U.S. Within Europe, Italy has played a leading role in developing technology that can convert used olive oil collected from restaurants into biodiesel fuel.18 Because Europe is unable to keep up with demand internally, it also receives a significant amount of biodiesel from Argentina every year. Argentina is a major worldwide supplier of biodiesel, which it primarily derives from its massive cultivation of GMO Roundup-Ready soy. China, meanwhile, has been leading the charge to develop biodiesel fuel from canola (rapeseed), much of which grows along the Yangtze River, which cuts through Wuhan.
In the U.S., technology development has focused on making usable biodiesel fuel from the remnants after a crop has been harvested (typically corn or wheat) or the debris generated by the forestry industry. This seems appealing because it does not directly divert what could be food crops into fuel. However, there is a dark side to biodiesel fuel manufacturing, exposed in the 2019 documentary Planet of the Humans (with Michael Moore as executive producer).
Three major cities stand out as leaders in the adoption of biodiesel for vehicle use on the roads: New York City (which powered eleven thousand vehicles at least partially on biodiesel as of 2017), New Orleans (which uses biofuel in city buses) and Washington, DC. It is probably no accident that these three cities are all at the mouth of large navigable rivers (the Hudson, Mississippi and Potomac rivers, respectively), given that river barges are the most economical mode of transport for the collected biomass.
Disturbingly, all of the sources of raw materials for biodiesel listed above have likely been contaminated with glyphosate, and we have known for a long time that glyphosate is readily absorbed from the respiratory tract. In a study on farmers’ use of glyphosate, the authors measured urinary glyphosate before and after the farmers applied glyphosate to their crops and noted a significant increase in urinary levels after application.19 GMO Roundup-Ready soy and corn are sprayed with glyphosate several times a year to control weeds, and wheat (though not a GMO crop) is routinely sprayed with glyphosate as a desiccating agent right before harvest. The forestry industry also makes heavy use of glyphosate to kill off hardwood trees and provide more space for planting faster-growing conifers. As for canola, an online article from 2017 describes the technique of “straight-cutting” canola to optimize yield at harvest time. At the time, the author estimated that half of all canola acres would be straight-cut by 2020. Because the green stalks make it difficult to feed the crop through the combine, the article quoted an expert as saying, “a pre-harvest herbicide application is very important for straight-cutting,” with glyphosate explicitly mentioned as a popular choice.20 I have been unable to determine whether glyphosate is used on the rapeseed growing along the Yangtze River in China.
Many different methodologies are being developed to process the raw materials that ultimately produce biodiesel fuel. It is unclear whether glyphosate would survive the processing intact or get broken down. However, methodologies that rely on enzymatic action of lipases must operate at a relatively low temperature to avoid destruction of the enzyme, and this probably also avoids destruction of glyphosate.17 It is also unclear whether engine combustion would break down glyphosate before it has a chance to evaporate into the exhaust gas. Certainly, many other organic molecules are present in exhaust fumes, but several studies on the exhaust fumes from biodiesel fuel, in particular, have consistently shown that it induces a greater inflammatory response than regular diesel. The reasons for this remain uncertain.21
Aviation biofuel is another potential source of airborne glyphosate. This technology has advanced rapidly since around 2010. United Airlines was the first to introduce aviation biofuel, but now there are at least four airlines flying into and out of New York City that use aviation biofuel. Queens is perhaps the most affected borough. Nearly surrounded by water, Queens is intersected by three major interstate highways (I-278, I-495 and I-678) and is also close to three major airports: La Guardia just to the north, JFK to the south and Newark in New Jersey.
As of this writing, the UK had the worst Covid-19 death toll in Europe, and the second highest number of total deaths behind the U.S.22 News reports have singled out bus drivers and people living in the town of Slough (adjacent to Heathrow Airport) as being especially affected.21 Test flights and commercial flights running on aviation biofuel blends have been flying into and out of Heathrow since 2008.23 On the ground, the mayor of London reported in July 2017 that about a third of the city’s nearly ten thousand buses were running on 20-percent-blends of biodiesel; the mayor also stated that by 2018, London would no longer add pure diesel double-deck buses to its fleet.24
Glyphosate could be released at various stages of biodiesel fuel production and use, including potentially off-gassing from the biomass on river barges, getting released from biodiesel manufacturing plants, evaporating into the air at gas tanks when vehicles are tanking up or coming from the exhaust fumes of airplanes on the runway or from cars, buses or trucks on highways. To my knowledge, no one has yet tested for glyphosate’s presence from any of these sources. Research is desperately needed to test for levels of glyphosate in different biodiesel products and in exhaust fumes from different vehicles (highway and airplanes) running on biodiesel fuel.
The lack of any significant impact of Covid-19 on the island of Taiwan is very surprising. Due to Taiwan’s dense population (nearly twenty-four million pepole) and proximity to China, it was anticipated that they would be hit early and hard. As of May 7, 2020, however, Taiwan had reported only four hundred thirty-nine cases over the entire island, with six deaths. Notably, Taiwan’s government has banned genetically modified crops, and the country uses very little glyphosate on its non-GMO crops. Although Taiwan’s cities have plenty of air pollution, it’s not from biofuels—Taiwan does not use any biodiesel in its vehicle fuels. From 2008 to 2014, the country explored the possibility of converting used cooking oil to biodiesel, but in May of 2014, the state-run oil refining company decided to phase out biodiesel fuel production. Even when using a blend that was only 2 percent biodiesel, the island’s high humidity was causing the growth of biofuel-producing microbes that clogged vehicles’ fuel tanks.25
CHELSEA, MASSACHUSETTS: A CASE STUDY
An article published online way back in 2002 is interesting in several respects. It focused on a company in Chelsea, Massachusetts, which at the time controlled 75 percent of the budding new market in biodiesel fuel production. The company had developed a processing method that could convert used cooking oil, such as soybean oil, into biofuel. The company also accepted rapeseed oil, waste oil from landfills and recycled grease.26 Years later, in December 2019, an article in the Boston Globe described a fire that broke out in Chelsea in a containment area of a biodiesel production plant, where a tank containing fifteen hundred gallons of cooking oil exploded into flames.27 The tank’s overall capacity—twenty-five thousand gallons—demonstrates that Chelsea is still very much in the biofuel production industry. Chelsea, located on a small peninsula in Boston Harbor, houses 100 percent of the aviation fuel supplying Logan Airport, as well as 80 percent of Boston’s home heating oil in large tanks scattered along the shoreline.
The Boston area is one of the Covid-19 hot spots in the United States. When cities in Massachusetts are ranked in terms of their rate of infection per population unit, Chelsea comes up on top by a wide margin (see Figure 2). As of May 1, 2020, Chelsea ranked number one in Massachusetts with three hundred sixty-three cases per ten thousand people. The number-two city was Brockton, with one hundred eighty-five cases per ten thousand—just over half as many as Chelsea.28
The 2002 article on Chelsea’s biodiesel production plant concluded with the following comment: “And there is one final hurdle for biodiesel advocates: What can be done with glycerin, a goopy byproduct of biodiesel refining? Although glycerin is often used in food, soap and cosmetics, it already is cheap and widely available, and the market for an additional supply is unclear at best.”26 The answer to this question becomes clear in the next section of this article.
VAPING AND LUNG DISEASE
Even before the Covid-19 epidemic hit, I had become aware of a strange lung disease affecting people who regularly smoke e-cigarettes (electronic nicotine delivery systems). E-cigarettes were first introduced into the U.S. market in 2007, and the market has been steadily growing ever since. I had been suspecting that the cause of the unusual lung illness might be glyphosate contamination in e-cigarettes. Tobacco itself is a GMO Roundup-Ready crop, so this could be one source, but other potential sources—specific to e-cigarettes—are the glycerin and propylene glycol additives. As we have just seen, glycerin is a major waste product of biodiesel production, and it is easily converted to propylene glycol.29 The increased production of biodiesel has glutted the market with glycerin, making it inexpensive and widely available.
A paper analyzing ninety-eight cases of the novel lung disease in association with e-cigarette usage described the symptoms as follows: “The most common respiratory symptoms were shortness of breath (85%), cough (85%), and chest pain (52%). Reported gastrointestinal symptoms included nausea (66%), vomiting (61%), diarrhea (44%), and abdominal pain (34%). All patients had one or more constitutional symptoms, with the most common being subjective fever (84%). Upper respiratory symptoms such as rhinorrhea, sneezing or congestion were not commonly reported.”30 This matches extremely well with the symptoms of Covid-19, also associated with breathing difficulties, digestive issues, a dry cough, a slight fever and a notable lack of rhinorrhea (a runny nose).
A very thorough investigation into the effects of vaping fumes on mice—with an especially detailed analysis of the ways that the disease affects the lungs—revealed a great deal more information about the characteristics of the disease process.31 The mice were exposed to vaping fumes for three months and subsequently were infected with the flu virus. The mice responded with an overactive adaptive immune response to the virus in the lungs, just as acute cases of Covid-19 are associated with an overactive adaptive immune response.
COLLECTINS AND THE INNATE IMMUNE SYSTEM
The researchers who studied the vaping-exposed mice found a very specific defect in the mouse lungs, namely, suppressed production of opsonins in the lung surfactants. An opsonin is “an antibody or other substance which binds to foreign microorganisms or cells making them more susceptible to phagocytosis.” In other words, it acts like a vacuum cleaner or tar paper to bind to pathogens or cellular debris and assist the immune system in clearing them. The lung cells produce four opsonins, logically named as SP-A, SP-B, SP-C and SP-D, where “SP” stands for “surfactant protein.”
Notably, SP-A and SP-D, but not the other two, are members of a larger class of a dozen or so proteins called collectins, which are produced by immune cells and which are all involved in clearing pathogens and cellular debris. Collectins all have a unique feature, a “collagen-like stalk,” which is a section of the protein that folds into a triple-helix structure that then binds together with other collectins to form the characteristic stalk. The vaping study found that SP-A and SP-D (but not SP-B and SP-C) were significantly reduced in the lungs of the mice exposed to vaping fumes.
The sequence motif associated with collagen and collagen-like proteins is a long pattern of “GxyGxyGxyGxy. . . ” where glycine occurs in a regular pattern interspersed with two other “wild-card” amino acids. Collagen is by far the most common protein in the body, constituting up to a quarter of all the protein mass. I believe that glyphosate substitution for glycine—specifically within collagen—is responsible for the alarming increase in multiple joint problems that are necessitating shoulder surgery, hip and knee replacement surgery, lower back and neck surgery and many issues with foot pain. It may even be a major driver behind the opioid drug crisis.
The collectin SP-D has been implicated in multiple respiratory diseases, including respiratory distress syndrome, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, allergic asthma and COPD.32 As I mentioned previously, patients with COPD in China had an eighteen-fold increased risk of ending up in the ICU with Covid-19.7 Smoking increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and hypertension, both of which are also strong risk factors for bad outcomes with Covid-19.
Another striking feature of the lungs of the vaping-exposed mice was the accumulation of lipids (fats) within invasive macrophages. This is reminiscent of the observations from another paper, which exposed rats orally to low-dose glyphosate. Despite the fact that the exposure level was below regulatory limits, the rats developed fatty liver disease, with both native and invasive macrophages within the liver accumulating fatty deposits.33 A study on humans with fatty liver disease revealed that those with the disease had statistically significantly higher glyphosate levels in their urine compared to controls with a healthy liver, and, furthermore, those with more advanced liver disease (including liver fibrosis) had on average higher urinary glyphosate levels than those with milder disease.34
Liver disease is one of the preconditions associated with increased risk for an acute response to Covid-19. A review of data from Covid-19 patients in China reported that 14-53 percent of cases described in various studies had abnormal levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), which are commonly used indicators of liver disease.35
DISEASE PROCESS: KEY ROLE OF NITROGEN OXIDES
The human immune system consists of an innate component that is very general and always on alert, and an adaptive component that kicks in when an infection gets out of hand. A weak innate system necessitates a strong adaptive response.
The disease process of Covid-19 is beginning to be well characterized by clinicians around the world who are struggling to treat those with a severe case of the disease. The process begins with an infection in the lungs and an overactive response by the adaptive immune system. The invading neutrophils release inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Inducible nitric oxide synthase is sharply upregulated, and it produces nitric oxide that reacts with superoxide to produce the highly reactive product, peroxynitrite. Free iron released from heme catalyzes destructive reactions with the oxidizing agents, superoxide and peroxynitrite. Insufficient antioxidant defenses lead to extensive local tissue damage and severe oxygen shortages.
A key aspect of the ensuing disease process is the breakdown of hemoglobin in the red blood cells, which results in a sharp reduction in oxygen supplies to the tissues. Various derivative nitrogen oxides—particularly nitrogen dioxide (NO2)—result in the conversion of hemoglobin to methemoglobin. Methemoglobin releases its heme and induces the expression of heme oxygenase, an enzyme that breaks heme down into biliverdin and produces carbon monoxide as a reaction product. Carbon monoxide binds to heme in the red blood cells, preventing it from binding to oxygen, and this induces systemic oxygen deficiency, resulting in the characteristic features of low blood oxygen and shortness of breath.
A new paper analyzing a possible relationship between nitrogen dioxide levels in the troposphere and Covid-19 in Europe obtained remarkable results. To quote from the abstract: “Results show that out of the 4443 fatality cases, 3487 (78 percent) were in five regions located in north Italy and central Spain. Additionally, the same five regions show the highest NO2 concentrations combined with downwards airflow that prevent an efficient dispersion of air pollution. These results indicate that the long-term exposure to this pollutant may be one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the COVID-19 virus in these regions and maybe across the whole world.”36 The distribution of nitrogen oxides in the troposphere over Europe is shown in Figure 3 (reproduced from Figure 1 in the paper).
A number of studies have compared biodiesel fuel with standard diesel for their potential toxic effects on exposed animals. The general trend is that biodiesel appears to be significantly more toxic. In one study, the inflammatory markers granulocyte stimulating factor, interferon gamma and interleukin 6 (IL-6) were all expressed at much higher levels in the lungs of mice exposed to fumes from 30 percent biodiesel fuel compared to those exposed to pure diesel fuel.37
The collection of oxides of nitrogen that are present in air pollution, referred to collectively as NOx, are believed to be a primary component of the toxic elements in air pollution from vehicle exhaust.38 A number of studies have shown that biodiesel fuel derived from the oils of food crops or from animal fats and other waste oils generally show higher levels of NOx emissions compared to diesel fuel.37 For example, a detailed study of the composition of gases in the exhaust emissions derived from diesel fuel and two different sources of biodiesel fuel clearly showed dramatic differences in the amount of NOx in the different fuels.39 The authors compared standard diesel fuel with a fuel named B20 that contained 20 percent biodiesel (derived primarily from canola, soybean and olive oils) and a second biofuel named P20 that contained 20 percent biodiesel derived from biomass waste. (The latter, called “pyrolysis oil,” can be manufactured from things like corn cobs, wheat stalks, trees, shrubs and even sewer waste.) Only 6.2 mg/kg of NOx were found in the gas derived from diesel fuel, whereas 12 mg/kg were found in the B20 oil and an astounding 54 mg/kg in the P20 fuel. The study found that pyrolysis oil gases also contained much more carbon monoxide than the other fuel sources, with 371 mg/kg of carbon monoxide in P20, compared to only 197 mg/kg in B20 and 116 mg/kg in diesel fuel.39
There is considerable discussion in the media about the possibility that angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors—used to treat high blood pressure (among other conditions)—may be increasing Covid-19 risks. This is logical because the virus is said to gain entry via ACE2 receptors,40 which are upregulated when ACE is inhibited.41 However, another possibility to consider is that ACE inhibitors have been found to increase production of NOx. A cleverly designed study involved exposing isolated coronary microvessels from the left ventricle of the heart of a dog to ACE inhibitors and measuring production of NOx and consumption of oxygen. The researchers found that the drug reduced oxygen consumption and increased the production of NOx.42 Consistently, people suffering from high blood pressure have been found to be at a significant increased risk to Covid-19.
DERANGED HEME OXYGENASE
A group of Chinese researchers have proposed in a ChemRxiv preprint that one of the mechanisms by which SARS-CoV-2 causes oxidative stress is by binding to and attacking heme in hemoglobin. They wrote in the abstract: “The attack will cause less and less hemoglobin that can carry oxygen and carbon dioxide. The lung cells are toxic and inflammatory due to the inability to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen frequently, which eventually results in ground-glass-like lung images. The mechanism also interfered with the normal heme anabolic pathway of the human body, expecting to result in human disease.”43 However, a rebuttal paper appeared shortly thereafter, providing a long list of arguments why the theoretical ideas proposed by the first set of authors did not support their hypothesis and claiming that there is no experimental evidence that this can happen.44
Severe hyperinflammation is perhaps the best descriptor for acute Covid-19. When some Covid-19 cases cascade into a hyperinflammatory state, heme is released from hemoglobin and then iron is released from heme. The highly reactive free iron combined with the inflammatory response leads to widespread damage to the artery walls. This induces an acute thrombotic response, with blood clots appearing throughout the vasculature, eventually leading to multiple organ failure and death.45
If the virus is not causing this inflammatory cascade, then what is? The answer comes from studies on mutations in the enzyme heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1). Normally, this enzyme is able to metabolize heme into biliverdin and subsequently bilirubin, releasing ferrous iron that is then sequestered inside ferritin molecules, preventing the iron from damaging the tissues. Studies show that HO-1 is usually protective of oxidative stress, and, indeed, inflammation induces increased synthesis of HO-1. Importantly, the enzyme contains two critical glycine residues—G139 and G143—that bind electrostatically to heme and secure it in place to allow the reaction to take place. If either of these glycines is mutated to a different amino acid, the enzyme can no longer successfully carry out its reaction.
The title of a paper published in 2000 clearly states the consequences of replacing the first glycine residue with a different amino acid: “Replacement of the distal glycine 139 transforms human heme oxygenase-1 into a peroxidase.”46 The researchers replaced the first glycine residue with several different amino acids, but the one that caused the worst disruption was aspartate. Aspartate is a very good model for how glyphosate would behave because, like glyphosate, it is considerably larger than glycine and negatively charged. Turning the molecule into a peroxidase would result in the release of redox-active ferryl iron (Fe(IV)), a highly oxidized and very dangerous form of iron.47
This predicted effect is borne out in evidence from people who have a genetic mutation in G139. A paper that is well summarized by its title described a patient who picked up a bad copy of HO-1 from both parents (a homozygous change from glycine to valine). The title is: “Mutating heme oxygenase-1 into a peroxidase causes a defect in bilirubin synthesis associated with microcytic anemia and severe hyperinflammation.”48 The consequences of glyphosate perturbing HO-1 by substituting for G139 are catastrophic. Normally, HO-1 resolves inflammation, but the opposite happens when glyphosate disrupts the protein, setting in motion a dangerous positive feedback loop where inflammation induces HO-1, which induces more inflammation.
A final blow comes during the massive thrombotic response triggered by damage to the walls of the blood vessels by the ferryl iron and the oxidizing agents. Thrombin is the enzyme that produces fibrin, the main component of blood clots. Normally, antithrombin suppresses blood clot formation by binding to thrombin and disabling it. Severe Covid-19 disease is characterized by elevations in D-dimer, a marker for thrombin overproduction. Studies have shown that antithrombin administration is beneficial to treat sepsis and that it lowers the levels of D-dimer.49 Significantly, antithrombin’s activity increases over a thousand-fold through binding to heparan sulfate or heparin.50 Heparan sulfate synthesis is severely disturbed by glyphosate, as I have described together with collaborators in previous papers.51
It is plausible that the rapid rollout of 5G may work synergistically with glyphosate to enhance the effects on iron homeostasis. Several papers have shown evidence that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) disrupt iron status through alterations in the iron chelator ferritin, the iron regulator hepcidin or iron itself.52-55
ANTIBODIES AND VACCINES
We are hearing a lot of hype from the media about two solutions to the Covid-19 crisis. The first is a massive campaign to test for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 and to give those who test positive a free license to stop practicing social distancing. The second is the promise that a vaccine will soon be developed, and we can just vaccinate the entire world to halt the infection and go “back to normal.”
Both of these ideas are fallacious. Instead, we should be pushing toward steps we can take to boost the innate immune system, because that is where the solution lies. In fact, people who have a strong innate immune system can deal with environmental challenges (or can clear a virus from their body, if the cause is a virus) without experiencing any symptoms and without producing antibodies. Those who have an intense antibody production run the risk of developing autoimmune disease down the road, due to the antibodies attacking human proteins through a process called molecular mimicry.
The flu vaccine has not been successful in fighting off flu, and there is no reason to believe that a coronavirus vaccine would have a high success rate either. Increasingly, though, health care providers have encouraged us to get an influenza vaccine every year. Many—both young and old—have complied. Now there is concern that this policy may have caused an increased susceptibility to an acute response to Covid-19. A study published in 2012 compared children who were vaccinated with a trivalent inactivated flu vaccine against a placebo group. The vaccinated children experienced a 4.4-fold increased risk of infection with non-influenza viruses compared to controls. This suggests that the flu vaccine decreases the body’s innate ability to fight off infection, generically—that is, it weakens the innate immune system.56
A case study published in 2017 reported on two cases of interstitial pneumonia developing immediately following flu vaccination. The symptoms were remarkably similar to Covid-19, with a low-grade fever, general fatigue and a dry cough, progressing to shortness of breath, low oxygen and evidence of severe lung damage.57 It would be worthwhile to conduct a study comparing those who ended up in the ICU or died from Covid-19 to those who had a milder case with respect to their flu vaccination status.
While the media enthusiastically promote the idea that a vaccine for SARS CoV-2 is on the way, they are not drawing attention to an important study published in 2012 in PLoS One. The study involved vaccinating mice with four different candidate vaccines being developed against the strain of coronavirus responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).58 The authors were concerned because previous studies had revealed that both a whole-virus vaccine and a virus-like-particle based vaccine had induced an immunopathological lung disease in ferrets and non-human primates following exposure to the virus. Such a phenomenon is referred to as vaccine-induced “disease enhancement.” Their study with mice confirmed that the same problem encountered in ferrets and non-human primates also arose in the mice given the four vaccines under study. The vaccinated mice responded to viral infection with a so-called Th2-type immunopathology, with an excessive infiltration of eosinophils, which are known for their tendency to release large numbers of cytokines and chemokines. This overactive Th-2-type response is already being observed with Covid-19, and vaccination might just make it even worse.
My suspicion is that the vaccine induces unnecessary antibody production, which then primes the adaptive system following infection to kick in immediately with an over-reactive response, bypassing the usual channels ordinarily followed by the innate immune system. It is the cytokines and chemokines that are destructive to the lung tissue, and they likely would not be necessary to fight off illness if the innate immune system is strong.
Another serious problem with the development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is that the virus appears to be mutating very rapidly. A group of researchers in China performed sequence analyses of virus samples obtained from several different patients suffering from Covid-19, and they found thirty-one different mutations among the analyzed sequences.59 Furthermore, different strains appeared to have vastly different degrees of virulence. We can hope that the virus may mutate to a more benign form over time, but this also means that a vaccine is not likely to be effective over the long term.
There is a real concern that researchers will rush a new SARS-CoV-2 vaccine through the evaluation process and in their zealous enthusiasm for coming up with a vaccine will overlook danger signs. Hopefully, they will not be so bold as to mandate the vaccine for the global population, running the risk of serious adverse outcomes, not to mention vaccine failure.
VIRUSES AND EXOSOMES
Exosomes are a fascinating collection of small vesicles originally derived from pieces of the cell membrane but encapsulating content derived from the cell interior. They are released from the plasma membrane of cells into the general circulation, usually under conditions of stress. Their size is comparable to the size of viruses and, just like viruses, they contain a variety of different biological molecules, including proteins, RNA and DNA. Cells communicate messages among one another as packets inside exosomes; for example, it is believed that exosomes play a major role in cancer metastasis. Just as endosomes are formed from inward budding of the plasma membrane of the cell, tiny internalized vesicles within the endosomes are formed by inward budding of the endosomal membrane. These tiny vesicles can then be released as exosomes, once the endosome returns to the plasma membrane of the cell.60
I hypothesize that what drives endosomes to return to the membrane and release exosomes is an inability to mature into lysosomes. Furthermore, I believe that a primary driver behind this defect is a deficiency in heparan sulfate in the extracellular domain of the cell. Normally heparan sulfate is continually recycled by the cell, being detached and scooped up within the endosomes as they form by pinching off from the membrane. As the endosome becomes more acidic by pumping protons into the interior, the sulfate that is extracted from heparan sulfate becomes a buffer to maintain the acidic pH. The acidic pH is necessary to support enzymatic breakdown of cellular debris and of viruses, in order to recycle the recovered raw materials into useful new molecules.
Thus I suggest that a deficiency in heparan sulfate leads to the massive release of exosomes by the cell. As a corollary, such a deficiency would also lead to a release of viruses by the cell, due to an inability to kill them and recover their contents as useful biomaterials. Those cells that are healthy enough to metabolize the viruses gain nutritional benefits from the viral contents. Thus the viruses strengthen the immune capacity of macrophages that are capable of clearing them. But if most of the macrophages are impaired in heparan sulfate supplies, the viruses will be profusely spread into the blood stream and overwhelm the blood’s capacity to transport them.
Injured cells in the lungs due to toxic exposures from the air can be expected to release viruses and exosomes into the air space. A cough is all it takes to propel them out of the body, and a person nearby can easily breathe them in. A compromised immune system in the recipient of the virus/exosome will amplify the spread to others in the vicinity. Perhaps this explains why Covid-19 spreads much more easily in places with high air pollution from biofuels.
STRENGTHENING THE INNATE IMMUNE SYSTEM
I believe that the key to protecting yourself from Covid-19 is to strengthen the innate immune system. The most important things you can do are to eat a strictly certified organic whole foods diet, spend significant time outside in the sunlight without sunscreen and without sunglasses, and stay away from major highways as much as possible to avoid toxic exhaust fumes.
Eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy meats, seafood and dairy, will help assure an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C and vitamin D (along with vitamin A) are especially important for immune function. Many in the alternative medicine community are recommending high-dose vitamin C and/or high-dose vitamin D as therapies to treat acute cases of Covid-19.
A healthy gut microbiome is crucial for a healthy immune system, and one way to maintain a rich supply of probiotics is to eat fermented foods. It is intriguing to me that Germany and South Korea have both had significantly better mortality statistics from Covid-19 than other nations. The cuisine of both countries includes fermented cabbage as a commonly consumed food (kimchi in South Korea and sauerkraut in Germany). Cabbage is also beneficial because it is an excellent source of sulfur. Taiwan and Japan have also been relatively spared, and popular foods in those countries include “stinky tofu” and natto (fermented bean curd). The fermented tea kombucha is also highly recommended.
Flavonoids and terpenoids are complex organic molecules produced by plants that are often used as medicinal supplements. Flavonoids and terpenoids are responsible for the bright colors of many fruits and vegetables. A prototypical flavonoid is quercetin, a plant pigment found in many foods, including apples, berries, onions, green tea and red wine, as well as popular medicinal supplements such as ginkgo biloba and St. John’s wort.61 Terpenoids contribute to the scent of eucalyptus and the unique flavors of spices such as cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Terpenoids (also known as isoprenoids) have been shown to have antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antihyperglycemic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.62 If your diet consists mainly of processed foods, then you will be deficient in flavonoids and terpenoids, and this can lead to increased susceptibility to disease.
SUNLIGHT EXPOSURE AND VITAMIN D
It has been noted that African Americans are significantly more susceptible to Covid-19 than other races. Part of the reason may be reduced access to quality nutrition, as low-income African Americans often live in areas known as “food deserts,” where fresh produce and seafood are less available, and organic choices are often nonexistent. But another factor may be vitamin D, as African Americans typically have significantly lower levels of vitamin D due to the fact that dark skin reduces the absorption of ultraviolet rays.63
It may be significant that the Covid-19 outbreak occurred in the late winter and early spring in the Northern hemisphere, when vitamin D levels are typically at their lowest. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to acute respiratory distress syndrome. Vitamin D is known to exert antioxidant activity, which is crucial protection from the inflammatory cytokines released during the immune response.64 While the recommendations from the literature are to take high doses of vitamin D, I would encourage spending significant time outdoors instead, if possible. As I have discussed in previous articles in this journal,65 sunlight exposure also induces cholesterol sulfate synthesis in the skin, and this is important for supplying sulfate to the vasculature and to the immune cells. This critically protects from both impaired immune function and thrombosis (blood clots).
In severe cases of Covid-19 with low oxygen levels in the blood, hospitals’ use of ventilators has been widespread. However, many have expressed concern that the ventilators are actually contributing to further damage to the already fragile lungs. The alternative medicine community is advocating the use of simple oxidizing agents such as ozone and chlorine dioxide (ClO2) in the treatment of Covid-19. Their pro-oxidant effects can directly kill viruses and thus reduce the viral load, and at the same time provide extra oxygen to fuel the body.
ClO2 is a simple molecule that has potent antimicrobial effects while remaining nontoxic to humans at low doses.66 ClO2 is particularly interesting to me because of its unique ability to oxidize sulfur.67 I theorize that oral ingestion of ClO2 promotes the synthesis of sulfate from organic sulfur-containing molecules such as taurine, and that this directly strengthens the innate immune system. Unfortunately, the medical establishment has been a harsh critic of ClO2, likening it to bleach, and this has made it difficult for clinicians to conduct controlled studies to evaluate its effectiveness.
The jury is still out on the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, promoted by President Trump as a potentially powerful treatment option for Covid-19. The doctor who introduced this idea to him was Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a doctor in New York City who claimed considerable success on his patients with Covid-19. One thing not often mentioned is that the treatment also included zinc sulfate supplements, and this aspect is probably very important. The drug is a zinc ionophore, and as such it promotes zinc uptake, which may be one of its primary benefits. However, the drug is usually administered as hydroxychloroquine sulfate, so it too is providing sulfate to the patient. Strangely most practitioners never consider the idea that sulfate might be a crucial component of the drug or zinc supplement.
Heparin is the most highly sulfated molecule known to biology, and heparin is another therapy that is showing promise in treating Covid-19.68 It improved coagulation dysfunction, as evidenced by sharp reductions in D-dimer, and also exerted anti-inflammatory effects by reducing the levels of the inflammatory cytokine Il-6, as well as increasing the abundance of disease-fighting white blood cells (lymphocytes).
There is growing evidence that Covid-19 is a different disease in different parts of the world. I suspect that the reason for the gross differences in susceptibility is the underlying toxicity burden of the population in each region. Most striking are the major hot spots around the world, starting with Wuhan itself and then branching out to include the Lombardy region of Italy and the northeastern part of the United States. All of these hot spots share a common thread of a high rate of adoption of fuels derived from biomass. And nearly all of the biomass sources are probably heavily contaminated with glyphosate.
Air pollution has been recognized as a significant factor in increasing the population’s infection rate. Both the nitrogen oxides and the nanoparticles are surely contributing factors, but glyphosate may be the key factor that distinguishes the toxic effects of biodiesel as compared to standard diesel fuel. This hypothesis needs to be verified by scientific experiments, but in the meantime it behooves us to take a closer look at the potential pitfalls of continued growth in the technology that produces fuels from glyphosate-contaminated biomass.
The long list of identified risk factors that lead to a worse outcome with Covid-19 aligns very well with diseases whose rates are going up in lockstep with glyphosate usage in the United States. These risk factors may have only an indirect causal link, but they can serve as markers of chronic glyphosate exposure. I highly suspect that it is the glyphosate itself that causes both the risk factor and the acute reaction to Covid-19. A plausible story for the observed progression—from lung infection to hypoxia to massive systemic inflammation to disseminated intravascular coagulation and finally to multiple organ failure—is based on glyphosate’s proposed unique mechanism of toxicity through disruption of protein function. Political action to ban glyphosate across the globe is urgently needed, especially if it can be shown that glyphosate does substitute for glycine during protein synthesis.
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This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2020