Live Blood Analysis? It doesn’t work

Posted 13 March 2014

Edzard Ernst is professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula medical school at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth. In this article published in The Guardian in 2005, Prof Ernst points out that the claims are nonsense, i.e., this test is no more than a scam. In fact, this is not new – the claims being made for this test in 2014 were rubbished as far back as 1980s!

A new era of scientific discovery?
Intrigued by the spectacular claims made for Live Blood Analysis? Don’t be. It doesn’t work

Edzard Ernst
The Guardian, Tuesday 12 July 2005

According to its supporters, Live Blood Analysis marks “a new era of scientific discovery” which is presently conquering the UK. One of the growing number of websites advocating this latest diagnostic tool describes its impact thus: “As the horse gave way to the horseless carriage, so must science now accommodate a new understanding of the body as a whole.”

The principle of LBA is fairly simple: a drop of blood is taken from your fingertip, put on a glass plate and viewed via a microscope on a video screen. Despite the claims made for it, LBA is by no means new; using his lately developed microscope, Antony van Leeuwenhoek observed in 1686 that living blood cells changed shape during circulation. Ever since, doctors, scientists and others have studied blood samples in this and other ways.

What is new, however, is what today’s “holistic practitioners” claim to be able to do with LBA. Proponents believe that the method provides information “about the state of the immune system, possible vitamin deficiencies, amount of toxicity, pH and mineral imbalance, areas of concern and weaknesses, fungus and yeast”, as another website puts it.

Others dare to be much more concrete and claim that they can “spot cancer and other degenerative immune system diseases up to two years before they would otherwise be detectable”; or say they can diagnose “lack of oxygen in the blood, low trace minerals, lack of exercise, too much alcohol or yeast, weak kidneys, bladder or spleen”. All this would amount to a remarkable discovery if it were true. But it’s not.

No credible scientific studies have demonstrated the reliability of LBA for detecting any of the above conditions. In what was, to the best of my knowledge, the first attempt to assess the value of this method, a practitioner with several years of experience in LBA tested the samples of 110 patients. Twelve had cancer and the task was to identify their samples without knowing further details. The results could hardly have been more disconcerting – just three of the 12 with confirmed cancer were detected, and the authors concluded that the method “does not seem to reliably detect cancer. Clinical use of the method can therefore not be recommended.”

So why are holistic practitioners becoming so fond of it? Seeing one’s own blood cells on a video screen is, admittedly, a powerful experience. It gives patients the impression of hi-tech, cutting edge science combined with holistic care. And impressed patients are ready to part with a lot of money. American websites explain how a practitioner can make $100,000 (£57,000) annually by purchasing the equipment necessary for performing LBA. The bulk of this money is made not through charging for the test itself but by selling expensive nutritional supplements to the patient with the promise that these will correct whatever abnormality has been diagnosed.

In other words, patients are potentially cheated three times over. First, you are diagnosed with a “condition” you don’t have; then a lengthy and expensive treatment ensues; and finally the bogus test is repeated and you are declared “improved” or “back to normal”.

One of the most out-spoken promoters of LBA is James R Privitera, a doctor from California. In 1975, he was convicted for selling an illegal cancer “cure” and sentenced for six months. His medical licence was temporarily suspended, and he was placed on 10 years’ probation. During this period, Privitera founded two companies for commercialising LBA.

In the US, LBA is used by about 10,000 doctors and increasingly also by chiropractors and naturo-paths. The authorities are becoming concerned about the widespread use of an ineffectual technique. In June 2005, the state health department of Rhode Island ordered a chiropractor to stop performing LBA, stating that the public should be wary of anyone who offers it. In the UK, the General Medical Council recently investigated the case of a doctor making wild claims about LBA and eventually decided to issue him with a “letter of advice”.

Advocates of LBA continue to insist that it is a diagnostic method “valuable for the early detection of serious health conditions”. In my view, it is fraudulent; those who promote ineffectual diagnostic methods for financial gain are charlatans, and patients who try them are being ripped off.

· Edzard Ernst is professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula medical school at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

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9 Responses to Live Blood Analysis? It doesn’t work

  1. Luanna 20 March, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    LBA changed my life for the better! I don’t think article is correct at all. My friend with cancer was diagnosed and it has helped my whole family. I think it is a fantastic tool!

    • Harris 20 March, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

      Readers should be aware that Luanna appears to really believes this. This may in fact simply be confirmation bias (http://www.camcheck.co.za/critics/#confirmation). The fact is that there is simply zero physiological basis for the claims for this test (with the exception of a few conditions), and therefore a diagnosis of e.g., cancer (with exceptions of a few types of blood cancer), is simply one of chance. In other words, if the “technician” informs enough people that the test shows that they may have cancer, the chances are that they will be right every now and then for a certain percentage of people will have cancer. I do have sympathy for Luanna’s belief – but it should not sway you to believe that the test is valid. Even haematologists who study blood full time, will point out that they cannot make the predictions that this test claims to do because it is physically/physiologically just not possible.
      “Dark field techniques allow for the viewing of live blood samples. Utilized primarily by alternative healthcare practitioners, blood microscopy is not accepted as a valid technique by most doctors, researchers, insurance companies or the FDA.” http://www.microscopemaster.com/blood-microscopy.html

      Wikipedia also discusses a range of aspects of this test. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_blood_analysis

  2. Michelle Stiekema 25 March, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    I am looking for some honest professional reviews on DNA Adduct Testing, its reliability and its usefulness.
    Thanks for your trouble.

    • Harris 25 March, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

      @Michelle
      Could you please supply more information, i.e., using DNA Adduct Testing for what specific purpose or claim?

  3. Michelle Stiekema 28 March, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    According to Dr Myhill from the UK, she uses these tests to indicate which chemicals have stuck to the DNA of her patients. They are particularly useful when treating her cancer patients, apparently. She then proceeds to get rid of these toxins with chelation therapy, detox regimes or beneficial mineral supplementation. Acumen Labs does the tests for her. It does not sound like ‘Alternative’ stuff. It could be quite interesting, but there seems to be very little info about it.

  4. Michelle Stiekema 29 March, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    Thank you for your trouble Dr Harris. But while this stuff about Dr Myhill is all rather disturbingly interesting, I really want some good medical opinion on the validity of DNA Adduct Blood Testing for the average health-concerned individual. Clearly there has been a fair amount of research in such fields as genotoxicity involving DNA Adduct Testing and you will probably find this testing done in other research projects. It’s relevance in Drug Testing and Enviromental Pollution is not hard to understand. Acumen Labs, however,(as far as my understanding goes) is one Contract Research Organisation (there may be others) who will conduct what could be routine blood tests to ascertain what toxins have attached themselves to which genes in your cells. Let me put it this way: Are there any trusted Medical Practitioners in SA who would recommend these DNA Adduct Tests for their patients, and under which circumstances?

    • Harris 30 March, 2014 at 10:04 am #

      @Michelle
      This is a test I know noting about, so I had to do some research (and I have asked colleagues to do likewise).

      My research shows that some research was done on DNA Adducts decades ago, but little since then. It is not a routine test offered by laboratories throughout the world. Although DNA Adducts have been associated with e.g., pollution, etc., in fact, “While there may be adduct levels at which there is no observable biological effect, there are at present insufficient data on which to set a threshold level for biological significance.” (http://superfund.berkeley.edu/pdf/320.pdf) In other words, even if you find them present in the blood, they may not be harmful – at what level do they become harmful?

      Other research also argues that DNA adducts may not be a useful test, e.g., one study found there was no correlation of WBC adduct levels with the concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in the work atmosphere [1] (1993) in contrast with another that reported that “elevated levels of PAHs, with the Tongliang power plant being a significant source, is associated with reduced fetal and child growth in this population“. (2006)[2] Note the “in this population” clarification.

      The most recent research article, and one that reviewed previous papers (“We pooled 11 studies (3,600 subjects) in which bulky DNA adducts were measured in human white blood cells“), makes these very pertinent points:

      Factors that have been reported to be related to DNA adduct levels include smoking, diet, body mass index (BMI), genetic polymorphisms, the season of collection of biologic material, and air pollutants.” [my emphasis]

      In this large pooled analysis, we have found only weak associations between bulky DNA adducts and exposure variables. Seasonality (with higher adducts levels in winter) and air pollution may partly explain some of the interarea differences (north vs. south Europe), but most inter-area and interindividual variations in adduct levels still remain unexplained.

      Impact: Our study describes the largest pooled analysis of bulky DNA adducts so far, showing that interindividual variation is still largely unexplained, though seasonality seems to play a role.” (2010) Published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. [3]

      My conclusion is that DNA adducts testing is still a research tool, that there is insufficient data to draw firm conclusions, and as with many other pseudo-scientific tests, that inaccurate extrapolation of real scientific facts are made to support claims being made to sell the test.

      1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1567023/
      2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1552014/
      3. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/19/12/3174.full

  5. Michelle Stiekema 6 April, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    Interesting reading, Dr Harris. Thank you. I have emailed basic queries regarding Adduct Testing to addresses I found on websites of Acumen Labs and Nordic Labs. I’m awaiting responses. Will let you know if anything interesting emerges.

    Michelle Stiekema

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