If you wander through health fairs these days, it's impossible to avoid the signs urging everyone to undergo "live-cell analysis." This procedure purports to let you watch your own blood as it goes about its business. A drop or two of your precious red is highly magnified by an instrument called a dark field microscope. And it's supposed to report on nasty things happening in your body.Does it? German doctors have developed a theory, published in scientific journals, that with this microscope they can see organisms in the blood called symprotids or somatids. When our internal chemistry goes awry, the theory goes, they mutate -- an early warning signal of disease. The symprotid theory is embraced by some North American naturopaths but is essentially unrecognized by North American allopathy.
The practitioners who favour such tests complain that too many people using the dark field microscope are untrained -- and what little instruction they've got has come from nutritional supplement companies eager to sell their wares. In short, don't be taken in. Never trust live-cell microscopy, as it's called, as a stand-alone test.
What the Experts Say"I think dark field microscopy is very useful. It's not going to diagnose any disease, but it can give you an idea of whether there are any problems with the immune system or nutritional status. It's particularly good for picking up iron, B12 and folic acid deficiencies. The results can be misleading unless backed up by other tests. It can't diagnose heart disease, cancer, arthritis. (It might show) parasites and candida, (but) everyone has some. The so-called parasites and how significant they are we don't know for sure. You have to have correlation with symptoms and other lab tests."
ZOLTAN RONA, MD, MSc"I practise dark field microscopy. It is not a stand-alone diagnostic tool. If you go to some health show and there's somebody with a microscope who tells you that you need all these vitamins, that's pure unadulterated garbage. People are manipulated by being told there's fungus or cholesterol crystals. You can't have fungus in the blood and still be alive. We have pseudocrystals in the blood, but there is no way you can say there are cholesterol crystals in the blood. If you go to somebody who has had European training or been trained by Michael Coyle, you are probably OK."
ALEXANDER WOOD, naturopath"These microscopes would be considered class-one medical devices, which is the lowest form of regulation. They're put in that class because they pose little or no health risk. Now, what's at issue here is how they're used, and that is a practice-of-medicine issue that is regulated by the provincial colleges of physicians and surgeons."
RYAN BAKER, spokesperson, Health Canada"It's an adjunctive tool. It complements all the skills and the other tests you can do. The person who does it should have a science background and be trained in microbiology. This weekend-course stuff is not acceptable. Invariably, people who come for live cell are people who've exhausted other avenues. They should try to be well informed on all levels and not put all their eggs in one basket. You should never do that in life or in health care."
KATRINA KULHAY, chiropractor, nutritionist"Dark field training is given to professionals only. It takes years. What you're mainly looking at is the life cycle of organisms in the blood. You can diagnose candida, parasites and pre-disease conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and cancer. If people have serious health conditions, they are probably looking in the wrong place if they go to someone who offers live cell analysis, because it offers very superficial information."
RICHARD DODD, naturopath"I haven't encountered this technology, and for good reason -- it has no science behind it. I've never seen a somatid. Red blood cells can be too big because a person is deficient in vitamin B12, but there can be a great number of other reasons. Too-small cells may be low in iron, but it could mean a dozen other things. Red blood cells stick together because a protein coats them. The cause could be anything from inflammation or infection to a malignancy called multiple myeloma, but you can't tell which from this test. And you see the same thing in an ordinary blood test."
GEORGE KUTAS, MD, hematologist