Iodine: The Forgotten Weapon Against Influenza Viruses
by David Derry, MD, PhD
Over 25 years, influenza viruses were isolated and methods for killing them with various agents discovered. Iodine was the most effective agent for killing viruses,especially influenza viruses. Aerosol iodine was found to kill viruses in sprayed mists, and solutions of iodine were equally effective.
In 1945, Burnet and Stone found that putting iodine on mice snouts pre- vented the mice from being infected with live influenza virus in mists. They suggested that impregnating masks with iodine would help stop viral spread. They also recommended that medical personnel have iodine-aerosol-treated rooms for examination and treatment of highly infected patients. Current methods of dealing with influenza infection are isolation, hand washing, antiviral drugs, and vaccinations.
All of these methods can be improved by incorporating iodine into them. When impregnated with iodine, masks
become much more effective, and hand washing is more effect when done with mild iodine solutions.
Isolation techniques coupled with aerosol iodine would make them safer for patients, medical personnel,
and all persons working with the public. Public health authorities could organize the distribution of iodine
and at the same time educate the public in the effective use of iodine. Oral iodine might also boost body
defense mechanisms in the upper oral and respiratory mucus.
Conclusion: Iodine incorporated into masks, solutions, aerosols, and oral preparations could help to kill influenza viruses and fight off an H1N1 Pandemic.
Treatment and Prevention
The time-tested weapons against influenza viruses are cleanliness, hand washing, isolation,masks, immunizations, and antiviral medications.
n 1918, the last two were not available, and the other methods did little to stop viral spread. Washing hands in a standard 70% alcohol solution is effective against most pathogenic bacteria, but it has no effect on viruses, especially influenza viruses. In a similar manner, masks used in 1918 showed barely detectable benefits in holding back influenza spread as viruses readily passed through the gauze. Isolation is difficult to institute and enforce in cities with large numbers of infected patients. In sparsely-populated communities such as Alaska, isolation was beneficial but difficult to implement.
Even in hospitals, large numbers of patients tend to overwhelm and compromise isolation techniques.
Vaccines and antiviral drugs have been prepared and are available in many Western Countries. These interventions are of unknown benefit, as influenza viruses tend to mutate rapidly.
odine is the most effective broad-spectrum antiseptic with low toxicity. Iodine has very high
germicidal activity, and no organism develops resistance to iodine.
Iodine has been used in various forms as an antiseptic for the skin, wounds, and mucous sur- faces of the body. It has also been used to sterilize the air and inanimate objects such as catgut and surgical instruments. Moreover, it has been used as a prophylactic and therapeutic agent in diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and to san-
itize eating utensils. Iodine kills bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, and even spores of bacteria andfungi, including anthrax spores. Iodine was used successfully against influenza, herpes, small pox,
and chicken pox viruses. When iodine was suspended in a solution, viral inactivation occurred at dilutions of 1/1,000,000. Aerosols inactivated many viruses within 30 seconds or less. Watery solutions such as Lugol’s are the superior germicides.
New Findings Leading to Effective Therapy with Iodine
In 1945, a breakthrough occurred when J.D. Stone and Sir McFarland Burnet (who later went on to win a Nobel Prize for his Clonal Selection Theory) exposed mice to lethal effects of influenza viral mists. The lethal disease was prevented by putting iodine solution on mice snouts just prior to placing them in chambers containing influenza
viruses. Burnet and Stone wrote, “As a protection for doctors, nurses and others dealing with highly infectious patients (Pandemic Influenza) it should be relatively easy to design a gauze mask partially impregnated with iodine which should offer a greatly increased degree of protection to the wearer.”
Burnet and Stone also suggested, “it may be worth considering iodine vapor as a practical means of limiting indoor infection during an influenza epidemic” Students in classrooms were protected from influenza by iodine aerosol therapy. Aerosol iodine also is effective against freshlysprayed influenza virus.
Iodine Body Properties and Distribution
odine has been known as a universal antiseptic for 150 years and has few side effects except in high doses. Iodine was introduced into our diets with iodized salt by David Marine in 1920.
This effectively eliminated goiter, cretinism, andmental retardation caused by inadequate iodine in
our diet. Extremely high doses of iodine can have serious side effects, but only a small fraction of
such extreme doses are necessary to kill influenza viruses. Iodine circulating in the blood is captured
by many tissue sites and ends up in mucus se- cretions. The tissues include thyroid and salivary glands, nasal secretions, stomach, and lungs. Collectively, these tissues and mucus products contain free iodine which defends against invasion by bacteria and viruses. When dietary iodine is absorbed from the gut all the above sites along with urinary output compete for blood iodine. The most potent competitor is the thyroid glands, which uses iodine to make thyroid hormone. A constant percentage of dietary iodine is excreted in the urine.
Upper Respiratory and Oral Mucus Defenses
he salivary glands, nasal mucosa, and lungs all secrete mucus which contains iodine. The lungs not only secrete mucus, but Salter thought volatile iodine mixes with alveolar air to enter thebronchioles. If this is occurs, it would serve as an additional barrier to the invading air borne viruses in a manner similar to aerosol iodine.
Stomach mucosa captures iodine from blood and secretes it into stomach cavities. Free iodine in
the stomach kills bacteria and viruses and it deactivates biological and chemical toxins. Dead viruses are still immunologically competent and thus antibodies can be made to dead viruses. Overall, we see there is a complex integrated system for protecting humans from viral or bacterial invasions via oral, nasal, and gastrointestinal
routes. This system depends on taking adequate iodine orally.
Current Iodine Doses and Doses Needed to Prevent Invasion
ur current recommended iodine intake by the WHO is 150 to 200 micrograms daily. This dose first started by David Marine in 1920 has successfully prevented goiters, cretinism, and mental retardation. If the daily iodine dose is above 3 mg for over 2 weeks, the thyroid gland becomes saturated and no longer takes up much iodine.
Then, dietary iodine goes to other sites namedabove and is excreted into the upper respiratory
and gastrointestinal tract mucus. It seems logical that air borne viruses become stuck in mucus and
killed by free iodine. Dietary iodine found in iodized salt is below the amounts needed to fill mucus defense roles. To
protect themselves, people wishing to boost their defense against infections should supplement their diets with iodine in the form of Lugol’s. Most people will probably be protected by an amount of Lugol’s that provides the average amount of iodine ingested by Japanese populations for centuries.
This amount is about 12 mg daily. Two drops of Lugol’s daily in the liquid of their choice will pro- vide 13 mg.
Lugol’s Iodine Solution
ugol’s iodine solution was discovered by Henri Lugol, a Paris physician, more than 150 years ago. It has been used therapeutically since then. Lugol’s consists of 5% free iodine and 10% potassium iodide in water. Lugol’s has a distinct advantage over most other iodine oral medications by having a high level of free iodine, which is the active ingredient that kills viruses. Medical personnel and others interacting with highly infectious persons should consider protecting themselves with 2 drops daily of
Lugol’s iodine orally in the liquid of their choice, as all liquidswork. At this dose, no noticeable side effects occur. Free iodine is believed to react with the amino acids tyrosine and/or histidine at low concentrations. The reaction denatures proteins and causes the death of cells.
Iodine Well Tolerated by Humans
In the 1930s, iodine’s use therapeutically was stated in the US Pharmacopeia. Theusual dose for treatment is 300 mgs (46 drops of Lugol’s) to 1 gm (1000 mg, 154 drops). The maximum safe dose in 24 hours should seldom exceed
6 gm as at these extreme doses iodine is not without danger. Such high doses are not needed to pre-
vent or treat influenza virus infections.
Educating the Public
Supervised by Public Health Officials and physicians the lay public can be taught ways to use iodine. By using iodine correctly persons could protect themselves and their families. Stock piled concentrated solutions can be the source of more dilute solutions for distribution to the public.
Can Lugol’s be Given to Treat Influenza Infection?
The author is not aware of any published data on treating viral infections with oral or intravenous Lugol’s solution or any other medications with the exception of some topical iodine’s use for herpes infections. As Lugol’s is well tolerated both ways, it is a form of treatment that could be explored. It was standard practice to give high doses of iodine for Graves’ disease prior to thyroidectomy and no serious side effects were noticed.
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