A landmark study published in the August 2010 issue of the journal Homeopathy describes the successful use of homeopathy to prevent epidemic disease – one of the first such studies and by far the largest homeopathic trial of any kind to be published in the modern medical literature. The study took place in Cuba, where researchers and public health officials collaborated in the homeopathic immunization of over 2 million persons against epidemic Leptospirosis. The results were highly impressive.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which has historically occurred throughout the developing world and in the tropics. In recent years it has increasingly been recognized as a serious health problem worldwide    It is spread primarily through consumption of contaminated drinking water and so incidence rises during rainy seasons, floods and other natural disasters.
In Cuba, each year since statistics have been compiled, dozens to hundreds of deaths and thousands of cases of serious illness are caused by Leptospirosis. The bulk of these cases occur in the last 12 weeks of the calendar year (October through December), with December representing the peak incidence.
In October of 2007, with an unusually early rise in disease incidence indicating the likelihood of an especially dire season of disease and with the inability to procure adequate amounts of conventional vaccine, the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba decided for the first time to utilize a homeopathically prepared vaccine product. Made from 4 strains of Leptospira and delivered orally, the homeopathic product was administered to 2.1 million people living in the regions considered at highest risk of disease. The rest of the 11 million inhabitants of the island did not receive any preventative forms of medicine other than 15,000 persons (0.6% of the population) in the high risk area who received the conventional vaccine.
The results were unprecedented.
In the intervention region (i.e. the high-risk area which received the homeopathic product), within 2 weeks of administering the homeopathic product a 90% decrease in disease incidence was observed. This was stunning, considering disease incidence had historically increased during this period (even with the administration of conventional vaccination) and that the statistical model had predicted close to a 100% increase for this period in 2007.
No decrease in disease incidence was observed in the non-intervention region – instead, the usual increase for this time of year occurred.
In September 2008 a second round of homeopathic prophylaxis was administered – this time to 2.3 million persons.
Again results demonstrated the effectiveness of the homeopathic product, with disease incidence in the intervention region occurring at a remarkably low 0-2 cases per week, per 100,000 persons– a rate very significantly below the historical average, and this despite another record rainy season with hurricanes of unusual intensity (‘Gustav’, ‘Ike’, and ‘Paloma’).
In the non-intervention region in 2008, disease incidence remained at historical levels, just as in 2007.
The total annual incidence of Leptospirosis was reduced in the intervention region by 84% from 2007 to 2008, while incidence rose in the non-intervention region by 21% – this despite significantly higher risk of disease in the intervention region.
The authors of the study considered numerous variables outside of the homeopathic intervention which may have influenced the disease trends, but all were shown to be statistically non-significant: “Taken together, these facts suggest that the [homeopathic prophylaxis] intervention in the [intervention region] was the main factor causing a significant reduction in Leptospirosis incidence.”
The study was conducted at the Finlay Institute, which is Cuba’s national medical research institute and a World Health Organization recognized research facility. The institute is primarily involved with study of conventional medicine but also has a small homeopathic arm.
Since 1998, scientists at Finlay have manufactured the world’s only commercially available trivalent conventional vaccine for Leptospirosis – “vaxSpiral”. This product takes almost one year to make, costs the Cuban government $3M dollars and covers about 800,000 of its citizens (leaving a large percentage of high-risk population un-protected).
By contrast the homeopathic vaccine product was manufactured within one week at a cost of $200,000 and covered 2.3 million people. This means the homeopathic product cost around 2% of the conventional vaccine.
The fact that homeopathic prophylactic medicines can be manufactured so quickly has significant medical implications – making it possible to create vaccines in real-time using the exact strain of annual infectious organisms as they emerge (something not possible in conventional vaccine manufacture and a common cause of vaccine failure – in influenza, for example).
None of this invalidates the use of conventional vaccinations, most of which have a demonstrated record of effectiveness, but it does present a potential lifesaving opportunity for developing countries that lack resources to either purchase the conventional vaccine and/or administer it to their populations. And if replicated sufficiently in further studies and shown to be reliable, homeopathic immunization could potentially offer great benefit to the developed world as well.(though don’t hold your breath on NIH being eager to investigate anytime soon).
Which brings up the unfortunate side of this story – the fact that none of the prominent conventional medical journals would publish it.
Homeopathy editor Peter Fisher, had this to say in an accompanying editorial, “It is hard to imagine that such an impressive study of a conventional medicine or vaccine would not be published in a major medical journal, especially given the sample size of 2.3 million subjects.”
But we don’t need to imagine, since the authors of this study have indeed had their work in the conventional medical field consistently published in prominent journals. Lead author Gustavo Bracho and investigators Jorge Menendez, Luis Garcia, Rosa Solis, and Concepcion Campa have published dozens of papers in journals such as Science, Vaccine, Human Vaccines, Expert Review of Vaccines, Infection and Immunity, The International Journal of Medical Microbiology, and Immunology and Cell Biology
This sort of “all evidence is equal but some evidence is more equal than others” attitude is a fact most in the homeopathic community have unfortunately grown accustomed to.
Nevertheless, it is a good day for homeopathy and for those willing to listen.
UPDATE (2013) Since the writing of this article, Cuban health officials broadened the administration of homeopathic Leptospirosis prophylaxis to the entire population, with the result that the disease is nearly eradicated (so much that the product is no longer routinely given). Additionally, use of homeopathy as a public health measure has been expanded to include other epidemic conditions such as dengue fever, ‘swine’ flu, Hepatitis A, and conjunctivitis – all of which have been successfully treated (though results are not yet published).
1. Bracho G et al, Large scale application of highly-diluted bacteria for Leptospirosis epidemic control. Homeopathy 2010 Jul;99(3): 156-66
2. Pappas G, Papadimitriou P, Siozopoulou V, Christou L, Akritidis N. The globalization of leptospirosis: worldwide incidence trends. Int J Infect Dis 2008; 12(4): 351-357.
3. Vijayachari P, Sugunan AP, Shriram AN, Leptospirosis: an emerging global public health problem. J Biosci 2008; 33(4): 557-569.
4. Cruz LS, Vargas R, Lopes AA. Leptospriosis: a worldwide resurgent zoonosis and important cause of acute renal failure and death in developing nations. Ethn Dis 2009; 19(1 Suppl 1). S1-S37-S41.