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Bacteria, Cancer &
the Origin of Life

Part One

By Alan Cantwell, Jr., M.D.

Is new life merely just the beginning of eventual death, as scientists believe? Or is death the beginning of “eternal life,” as religions teach? Or could life be a never-ending cycle of life/death/life/death reincarnations? Can new life develop from non-living things? Or was all life and the universe created eons ago by the Creator, or through some freak accident of the cosmos? Where did I come from? What will happen to me after death? These are questions human beings have attempted to answer for centuries.

Nanobacteria, NASA and Astrobiology

     Robert Folk is a geologist who specialises in microscopic examinations of limestone. Working in Italy in the 1980s with a new scanning electron microscope (SEM) with magnifications up to 100,000X, he repeatedly came across “hordes of tiny bumps and balls” entombed within the rock that he initially passed off as artefacts or laboratory contamination, as had every other geologist using the SEM.

     However, after a year of doubts and some reading in microbiology, Folk learned that exceedingly small cells called ‘ultramicrobacteria’ did in fact exist. With further microscopic work, he realised the enormous numbers of tiny grape-like and chain-like clusters were indeed bacteria. Most amazing was these “nanobacteria” could be easily cultured as common forms of bacteria, known as cocci, bacilli, staphylococci and streptococci.

     His first scientific presentation of these astounding findings was met with “stony silence” and “howls of disbelief” from many microbiologists. To this day, some scientists contend these so-called nanobacteria are simply too small to contain the necessary genetic material for life.

     In microbiology, the ultramicroscopic bacteria are regarded as stressed or resting forms of big bacteria, and are thought to be both rare and dormant. Geologists prefer the spelling “nannobacteria” to conform with the spelling of extremely tiny “nannofossils”, a common term in geology dating back to the nineteenth century.

     But Folk claims nanobacteria are enormously abundant in minerals and rocks and they form most of the world’s bio-mass. If so, how could they have been missed for so long? Folk says microbiologists have little or no interest in bacteria found in soils or rocks; and for fifty years it has been standard microbiological dogma that bacteria smaller than 0.2 micrometers cannot exist.

     Size does matter, even when discussing the tiniest forms of life. The term “ultramicroscopic” is applied to bacterial cells smaller than 0.3 micrometers. At this size, bacteria are still barely visible as the tiniest of dots discernable with the light microscope. The ordinary light microscope can magnify objects up to 1000X and objects smaller than 0.25 micrometers cannot be seen. The electron microscope is able to photograph objects at magnifications of 300,000X, or higher.

     Nanobacteria are the smallest of living creatures, measuring in the 0.05 to 0.2 micrometer range (a micrometer is 1/1000 of a millimeter). This puts nanobacteria as an intermediate life-form between normal bacteria and viruses. Viruses are around 0.01 to 0.02 micrometers in size and cannot be seen with the ordinary light optical microscope.

     The size of bacteria, nanobacteria and viruses is exceedingly important to bear in mind because it is connected to more than a century of microscopic study into the germ origin of infectious disease. Furthermore, the “dividing line” between bacteriology and virology has been the customary “filter pore size” of 0.2 micrometers. Microbiologists have always assumed such a filter pore will catch all bacteria, and fluid running through a 0.2 micrometer filter pore would be bacteria-free.

     When geologists photographed 0.1 micrometer “bumps” they passed them off as contamination, never believing they could be living bacteria. Folk says, “You see what you are looking for and what you have faith in!”

     By the early 1990s these nanobacteria were investigated by a team of biologists in Finland, headed by Olavi Kajander. Since that time nanobacteria have been found in kidney stones, dental plaque, the gall bladder, in calcified arteries and heart valves, and in certain skin diseases. Kajander’s team also reported nanobacterial forms as small as 0.05 microns in human blood, and have retrieved DNA on particles as small as 0.2 microns. Most disturbing are reports showing nanobacterial contamination of fetal bovine serum used in the production of many viral vaccines. This adds concern to the controversial problem of “vaccine-induced illness” and the fear some people have of contaminated vaccines.

     Are nanobacteria connected with the origin of life on Earth? Nanobacteria-like “fossils” have been observed in several meteors, such as the Martian meteorite found on the Antarctic ice shelf in 1984. This meteorite is believed to be 4.5 billion years old, and is thought to have left Mars 16 million years ago. Supporters of nanobacteria research insist these bacteria have implications for how life began on Earth and other planets like Mars.

     NASA, the US space agency, has an Astrobiology Roadmap program, which consists of more than 200 scientists and technologists. Astrobiology addresses three basic questions: How does life begin and evolve? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?

     According to Roadmap, there are revolutionary changes going on in the world of microbiology.

     “Our ongoing exploration has led to continued discoveries of life in environments that have been previously considered uninhabitable. For example, we find thriving communities (of microbes) in the boiling hot springs of Yellowstone, the frozen deserts of Antarctica, the concentrated sulfuric acid in acid-mine drainages, and the ionizing radiation fields in nuclear reactors. We find some microbes that grow in the deepest parts of the ocean and require 5000 to 1000 bars of hydrostatic pressure. Life has evolved strategies that allow it to survive even beyond the daunting physical and chemical limits to which it has adapted to grow. To survive, organisms can assume forms that enable them to withstand freezing, complete desiccation, starvation, high levels of radiation exposure, and other physical and chemical challenges.”

     In addition, astrobiologists tell us that huge amounts of bacteria and possibly viruses are contained in Earth’s upper atmosphere. It is estimated a ton of these organisms arrive on Earth every day!

Quorum Sensing and Communication Between Bacteria

     In an amazing discovery, scientists have learned that bacteria can communicate with each other. When enough microbes gather to form a “quorum”, they release a hormone (a pheromone) which allows them to “talk” to one another and plan strategies, and even make some genetic changes to allow survival. Not only do similar bacteria talk to each other, they also talk between species.

     Barbara Bassler, a molecular biologist at Princeton University, is a leading pioneer in quorum sensing. Writing about her work for Wired magazine (April 2003), Steve Silberman says that communicating microbes are able to collectively track changes in their environment, conspire with other species, build mutually beneficial alliances with other types of bacteria, gain advantages over competitors, and communicate with their hosts – the sort of collective strategizing typically ascribed to bees, ants, and people, not to bacteria.”

         Quorum sensing has profound implications in the war against disease, particularly now that so many bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. According to Silberman, “Bassler’s research points to new ways of fighting disease that will aim not to kill but to scramble data in the bacterial network. One approach would be to block the receptors that receive the molecular signals so that cells never become virulent; another would target the DNA-replication mechanisms set in motion inside cells when the signals are received.”

     Not everyone in microbiology is convinced bacteria can communicate. But if some clairvoyants can talk to dead people, why can’t bacterial cells talk to one another? And don’t all the cells in our body “talk” to each other in some way?

Viruses, Bacteria, and the Beginnings of Life

     Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species was published in 1859 and is the seminal book giving rise to biology, as well as to the scientific and religious controversies that continue to this day. People were incensed to think humans could have arisen from monkeys and apes. Now some scientists think we developed side-by-side along with bacteria.

     Every human, plant and animal cell has genetic material inside a nucleus. Surrounding the nucleus is a jelly-like cytoplasm which contains the “mitochondria”, which are considered to be tiny chemical factories that process the nutrients which provide energy to the cell.

     Evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis of the University of Massachusetts believes the ancestors of all life are the bacteria, which fused into higher forms of life. Margulis follows in the footsteps of American biologist Ivan Wallin, who in 1927 first claimed mitochondria originated as free-living bacteria. Wallin thought ancient bacteria and their host cells evolved together to establish an inseparable symbiotic partnership. He even claimed to have removed mitochondria from cells and to grow them. Needless to say, Wallin’s ideas were ridiculed and almost universally rejected.

     But Margulis also theorises the origin of the mitochondria in our cells is derived from separate organisms that long-ago moved into other cells and entered a symbiotic (sort of a co-dependant) relationship with multi-cellular forms of life. Remarkably, the DNA in the mitochondria is totally different from the DNA in the rest of the cell, which lends support to this idea.

     Margulis subscribes to the vision that the Earth, as a whole, is a living being. In What is Life? (1955), co-written with Dorion Sagan, she maintains all life is bacteria – or descends from bacteria. In short, life is bacteria. And, as such, bacteria are closer to immortality than animals with bodies.

     Bacteria account for the vast majority of life forms on Earth, and are essential to maintain the conditions for life on the planet. They are the smallest living cells that can replicate without a nucleus, and are indeed the building-blocks of life. In comparison, the fertilised human egg is about 150-200 micrometers in size – about the size of a grain of sand and barely visible with the naked eye.

     What can microbes tell us about our origin and our destinies? And could we be immortal like our one-celled ancestors?

Creating “life” in the Laboratory

     What is the lowest form of life? And can life be created from non-life? Some scientists believe viruses are the lowest form of life. We are told viruses need to penetrate a cell and use the cell’s genes to survive. In the process, disease can be produced. But are viruses “alive” or “dead”? Scientists can’t agree.

     In 1991 Eckard Wimmer and his associates created a polio virus for the very first time – outside a cell and in a test tube. They extracted a soup of proteins from human cells, and then added genetic material from a polio virus. After a few hours, assembled polio viruses appeared in the mix.

      According to a New York Times report (Dec. 13, 1991), Wimmer was asked, is the product in the test tube living or nonliving? Some consider viruses to be simple living organisms, others consider viruses to be very complicated chemicals, said Wimmer. But “when it hits the cell it is very much alive. Some argue that one attribute of life is that it can reproduce itself. Well, that is what viruses do when they get into the cells. The debate on whether viruses are alive has been going on since they were discovered 100 years ago.”

     Although the cause of most cancers remains a mystery, research over the past half-century has focused on cancer viruses as a probable cause. With research focused on viruses, it would seem ludicrous to ask – can bacteria cause cancer?

     The mere thought of bacteria causing cancer drives most cancer experts up the wall! However, with the recent interest in nanobacteria and their discovery in the blood and in various diseases of unknown origin, the question should not be so easily dismissed.

     Furthermore, in the past decade physicians have come to accept the fact stomach ulcers can be produced by bacteria (Helicobacter pylori), and some ulcers eventually lead to stomach cancer. For many decades, it was dogma that bacteria could not live in the acid environment of the stomach. Also, pathologists could never see or detect bacteria in the stomach lining around ulcers. With the discovery of Helicobacteria and special staining techniques, doctors can now demonstrate bacteria in many ulcers – proving that microbiologists and pathologists were unable to “see” microbes, even though they are now clearly visible once they accepted the possibility microbes might be present.

Cancer, New Life, and Reich’s “T-Bacilli”

     Although the origin and cause of cancer is mysterious, there is no doubt cancer is the body’s futile and often fatal attempt to create new life and new growth. That is why cancer is so intimately connected with theories about the origin of life.

     One of the most controversial physicians of the last century was Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), a psychiatrist and cancer researcher who claimed to discover “orgone energy” – an energy that pervades the world and is intimately connected with our physical and mental well-being.

     In The Cancer Biopathy (1948), he wrote that cancer is a systemic disease caused by emotional despair and resignation and the chronic thwarting of natural sexual functioning. And this was just a few of his highly unorthodox beliefs based on his many observations and experiments.

     Reich also uncovered infectious “T-bacilli” (bacteria) in cancer that resulted from the degeneration of cancerous tissue. In his view, these bacteria formed a bridge between the living and the non-living. The T-bacilli were present in the blood and tissue before the cancer tumour developed; and these microbes were intimately connected to “bions” and the loss of biological energy. Reich’s heretical bions were the carriers of biological energy; and the staphylococcus and streptococcus germs he found connected to cancer were actually formed from the degeneration of the bions.

     Just as there is no clear dividing line between life and non-life, there is no clear boundary between healthy and diseased individuals. Reich claimed the cancer cell developed as the body’s attempt to resist the build-up of the T-bacilli in energy-depleted tissue.

     “The first step in the development of the cancer tumour is not the cancer cell… it is the appearance of T-bacilli in the tissue or in the blood.” But T-bacilli were not only found in cancer; they were also present in the blood and tissues of both healthy and sick non-cancerous individuals. However, sick and cancerous patients showed a larger number of these forms, and Reich developed a blood test to show this. T-bacilli were always found where there is degeneration of protein, and in that respect, Reich wrote: “All humans have cancer.”

     The orgone energy of the body determined the resistance of the body to these microbes. As long as the tissues and blood are “organotically strong, every T-bacillus will be destroyed and eliminated before it can propagate, accumulate, and cause damage”, wrote Reich. Because cancer germs were present in healthy people, Reich knew this would be a very difficult concept for physicians to consider and accept.

     Reich wanted scientists to look at science in a new way and to try and see it from the point of view of “energetic functionalism.”

         For example, “The bacteriologist, for instance, sees the staphylococcus as a static formation, spherical or oval in shape, about 0.8 micron in size, reacting with a bluish coloration to Gram stain, and arranged in clusters. These characteristics are important for orgone biophysics, but are not the essentials. The name itself says nothing about the origin, function, and position of the blue coccus in nature. What the bacteriologists calls ‘staphylococcus’ is, for orgone physics a small energy vesicle in the process of degeneration. Orgone biophysics investigates the origin of the staphylococcus from other forms of life and follows its transformation. It examines the staphylococcus in connection with the processes of the total biological energy of the organism and produces it experimentally through degenerative processes in bions, cells, etc.”

     Through his scientific experiments with orgone energy, Reich hoped to harness orgone for the treatment of disease and the good of humanity.

     Needless to say, Reich’s entire life’s work was considered hogwash, and a scientific inquisition eventually ensued. Branded a menace and a quack, he ran afoul of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which claimed his experimental “orgone accumulator” was being used illegally to treat cancer – and that it was nothing more than a perverted sex box.

     Refusing to obey a court injunction, Reich was sentenced to prison. His books were burned, his equipment destroyed by FDA agents, and he died at the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, in March 1957, at age 60.

     His research into the origin of life, and his belief orgone energy contained within the tiniest forms of life that could not be destroyed, make him one of the most misunderstood and hated physicians of the twentieth century.

     But, as we shall discover, there are other heretics in medicine, now mostly ignored and forgotten, who also believed cancer was connected with bacteria of human origin. Like Reich, they claimed a study of these microbes would not only lead to the infectious cause of cancer – but to a cause of life itself.

The concluding  part of this article will appear in the next issue of New Dawn.

Dr. Cantwell is a researcher on AIDS, cancer, and biological warfare. His book on man-made AIDS, Queer Blood: The Secret AIDS Genocide Plot, is available through the New Dawn Book Service. Many of his writings can be found on and the New Dawn web site. His published medical papers are listed on PubMed. 


The above article appeared in
New Dawn No. 81
(November-December 2003)