Inderscience Publishers

Low-dose irradiation therapy to cure gas gangrene infections

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Infection with clostridium bacteria, which live in the soil, is most often associated with war wounds, car accidents, complicated abortions, etc. The incidence is highest in areas with poor access to proper wound care. Such infections lead to gas gangrene, a deadly disease that spreads very quickly in the body and causes rapid death. Present-day treatment consists of administering antibiotics and surgical removal of dead, damaged and infected tissue. Amputation is usually necessary to control the spread of the infection, which, once established, generally advances at the rate of six inches per hour. From the late 1920s until the early 1940s, this disease was treated successfully with low doses, approximately 50 rad, of radiation (X-rays) in the area of infection. A review of 364 cases treated in this manner, from 1928 until 1940, indicated that patient mortality would be reduced from 50% (or higher) to ∼5% if patients were treated before severe progression of the disease and with the correct technique. X-ray therapy stopped the infection without the need for amputation to control its spread. Low-dose irradiation (LDI) therapy, given immediately, acted as a prophylaxis to prevent the onset of gas gangrene. This is but one example of the extensive use of radiation treatment of many types of infections, before the advent of antibiotics. Low doses are not adequate to kill invading bacteria directly; but, they will increase the activity of a patient's damage-control biosystem to destroy the infection. The observed beneficial effects are consistent with the large amount of scientific evidence of radiation hormesis – the stimulation by low doses of radiation of an organism's own defences (to destroy invaders and heal wounds). In view of the ineffectiveness of antibiotics in many cases and the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, current use of LDI therapy is needed. Many patients would benefit greatly.

Keywords: radiation, hormesis, gas gangrene, infection, therapy, low dose irradiation, clostridium bacteria

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