Far be it from me to suggest that President Trump is a fully rational individual. What I am suggesting is that he may not be as irrational as he appears to be. By now, his suggestion during an April 24th briefing that UV light or disinfectant brought inside the body might be a way to combat coronavirus has become a legendary clip.
No doubt the President could have broached the subject with more discretion, making it clear that he was not advocating that such an approach was ready for prime time. After all, he does have followers who swallow everything he says hook, line and sinker, such as this unconditional Trump supporter for whom chugging bleach wouldn’t be far fetched.
On the facebook page of an individual who I respect highly, I wrote: If we’re honest with each other, we’ll admit that the only certainty in all this is that we each choose which speculations to believe at any given point in time. To which she replied: “I know what you’re getting at but, to state the obvious, there is a clear demarcation between emerging scientific knowledge and emerging idiotic superstition and lies.” I then told her that I was writing a blog in which I would cite one of the most idiotic suggestions one could imagine being made. It sounds crazier than ingesting Lysol: It was during a 1941 outbreak of dysentery in North Africa when Nazi troops in close quarters were getting wiped out by dysenteric microorganisms. But the local Arabs were mysteriously spared. Mysterious, that is, until the German doctors witnessed locals with dysentery scooping up handfuls of steaming camel feces and eating it as an antidote to the malady. Understanding why this bizarre practice worked eventually gave rise to RCTs of fecal transplants for C. diff. My point? The demarcations here are not as clear as we would like to believe.
Here is the full story from the Yale University Press Blog:
“When the Nazi army invaded North Africa in 1941, the German tank drivers thought it was good luck to run over piles of camel dung. The Allies started to make fake camel dung piles and connect them to explosives that would detonate when run over by any luck-seeking tank driver. The deceit was so well planned that the Allies even put tire track marks in their fake dung piles to trick the tank drivers into plowing over them.
But, camel dung in its true form would hold a life-saving secret. Soldiers were suffering greatly from dysentery and the Nazi medical corps was brought in to attempt to alleviate the outbreaks. Early on, the local nomads were thought to hold a key to the solution, because they rarely suffered from dysentery. In fact, when an outbreak of dysentery occurred, or even when slight diarrhea was experienced, the nomads would diligently follow their camels around. When a camel defecated, the nomad would quickly scoop up the dung and ingest some while it was still steaming. After close scrutiny of the dung, the corps discovered that the dung was loaded with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. This species is in the same genus as a terribly pathogenic species, Bacillus anthracis, which causes anthrax, an often lethal respiratory disease. Bacillus subtilis, however, has since become one of those bacterial species considered “good” for humans.
What is it about B. subtilis that would make Arab nomads ingest camel dung? This species is a voracious eater of other microbes, including the ones that were causing dysentery. By ingesting the camel dung, the nomads were essentially altering their gut ecology to get rid of the pathogen causing the dysentery. But the B. subtilis was present only in warm dung; it would die out when the dung cooled. Not wanting the troops to ingest camel dung, the German high command and medical corps, instead, cultured large amounts of B. subtilis in vats and fed the broth from the cultures to the troops, stopping the outbreaks of dysentery. The Nazi medical corps even developed a way to dry out the B. subtilis and put it into powdered form for their troops. Since the Nazi experience with camel dung, B. subtilis has been used in much the same way as an anti-dysenteric agent.”
So in a way I understand where Donald was coming from. If eating sh*t turned out to be medicinal, who knows what possibilities there might be in harnessing the power of UV light and agents with disinfecting properties. It isn’t so outlandish to suggest that research might show a way to activate the anti-COVID nature of UV light or disinfectants internally under laboratory-controlled conditions, as might be done through optogenetics. That’s really what he should have said the following day when a reporter asked him to clarify his remarks from the previous day. Instead he chose to qualify what he said as being sarcastic when if fact, in proper context it could have been taken as a serious suggestion and might have earned him some respect.