Monday, March 28, 2011

Genetically Modified Organisms – New Allergens Affecting Us?

            This year (2010) I have seen an enormous increase in upper respiratory problems in dogs and cats (and owners).  I don’t want to say “infections,” because it may not be a new or different virus or bacteria causing the problem.  There have been runny noses, coughs, hacking, red eyes, and overall itching and scratching.  Some of the coughing in dogs I attributed to the possibility of a new strain of kennel cough, or tracheobronchitis.  But due to several factors, I’ve changed my mind.

            This spring I, too, came down with a case of tracheobronchitis.  I used to believe that kennel cough was only a dog problem, and “species immunity” prevented me from picking it up.  But last year I attended a lecture by a kennel cough specialist who told us that yes, indeed, humans can contract kennel cough from dogs.  Having seen dozens of cases a week, it’s obvious that I would be very exposed and susceptible. 

So, I hacked and coughed for three or four weeks.  I took several different antibiotics to control secondary bacterial opportunistic bacteria (yes, I know it may be just a virus, but there’s always bacteria hanging around, too).  When I thought I was getting better, and was just dealing with that “frog in the throat,” it seemed that it would come back.  I even noticed a crackling in my lungs at the end of inspiration when I went to bed, plus the cough that wouldn’t go away.  I began to think I was getting congestive heart failure.

I went to see our family doctor, who did a physical and ran a blood profile, ECG, and other circulatory tests.  I asked for a referral to see a cardiologist, since it has been five years since I had a stress test.  The cardiologist set up an echocardiogram, isotope heart scan, and stress test.  A few days after I saw the cardiologist I was thinking, “I’ve been diagnosing allergy-related upper respiratory problems all year in pets, perhaps that’s what I’ve got, too.”  So, I put myself on an allergy regimen of prednisolone (6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1).  Please don’t tell the AMA that I’m practicing human medicine; we’re all animals!

I grew up with hay fever.  In the summer, I’d go outside on a beautiful, clear day and sometimes have a sneezing fit.  I’d sneeze 16 times in a row, unable to stop.  Then, that night there’d be drainage and the next morning I’d have a sore throat.  Often tonsillitis would follow, and I’d deal with it for a week or two.  What had happened was that pollen had caused an allergic reaction, my upper airway mucous membranes became enflamed and swollen, and they began to produce copious secretions.  It was like turning on an incubator; whatever bacteria was there would grow in a perfect environment.  That’s why I believe that even with a “virus,” it never hurts to take an antibiotic as well.

Well, guess what?  The day after I began the prednisolone my symptoms totally disappeared!  The crackling in my lungs was gone and the coughing stopped.  No, I wasn’t dying of heart failure (my stress test was normal, by the way).  So, the treatment was diagnostic in a way.  Now I’m going to get allergy tested, because I’m afraid I may have become allergic to cats.*  We have four at home and five residents at the office.  I’m also concerned, however, about genetically-modified crops that may have been planted in our area.  Corn and soybeans, in particular, are planted on thousands of acres in this area.  The “new” plants also produce “new” pollens, which our bodies have never been exposed to before.  Could this be a reason so many people and pets have been having more upper respiratory problems recently?  Will we adapt to them?  Will the allergies go away or get worse?

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are supposedly the way of the future.  Have you seen a picture of that “super trout”?  I just hope our modern “science” isn’t going to be the end of us.

*  The allergy test was normal, with just a few mild allergens.  I called the lab and talked to one of the researchers about this.  He said there is a lot of controversy right now about GMO pollens causing allergies.  I’m sure Monsanto and others say they’re no problem.


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