Has 1980’s Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome Reared its Head?

Since GE Free NZ published information on the “newly-formulated”  Levothyroxine drug that has been associated with severe immunological symptoms, we have been inundated with letters and phone calls from sufferers all over the country. Glaxo-Smith Kleine’s Eltroxin used conventionally produced thyroxin, however in 2007 changed to the new formulation using a recombinant or genetically engineered bacteria to produce the human-identical protein.  They notified doctors and pharmacists twice that they had changed to a new formulation without specifying that it was a recombinant (GE) version. 

The symptoms of some people taking this drug are so severe that they can hardly function.  “It is concerning that doctors and pharmacists all over the country were not aware that the GE process was used in the new formulation,” said Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ). 

The symptoms are also alarmingly similar to the effects toxic of a genetically engineered protein product ‘L-tryptophan” that in the mid 1980’s caused a totally new disease called Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome (EMS). The disease affected the joints, heart muscle, respiratory system, and raised white blood cell counts to create a massive immune response that killed 36 people. The 2000 survivors are still fighting to stay alive and suffer long term ill health and continued joint and muscle pain. The only other recorded case of EMS has been one linked to the product Aspartame (Phenylalanine): a common sweetener which is also made through the same GE bacterial process.

“It appears there is something in the GE process that is causing the body to react to the drug as a foreign protein.  This adverse reaction causes a rise in white blood cells especially eosinophils, which then start attacking the body through the joints and muscle tissue, causing chronic fatigue and eventually shutting down the body’s organs,” said Mrs Bleakley.

Medsafe and Pharmac must recall all recombinant thyroxine and revert to the old version or whole thyroid extract whilst urgently carrying out further tests. 

 ”The feedback we have received  suggests there may be a serious health emergency going undetected. It should be suggested that people on Thyroid medication ask their doctor for a full set of blood tests and look at the white blood cell counts, iron, liver function and IgE levels to see if this is occurring.”



Six EMS Case-associated L-tryptophan Contaminants

  • 7. Peak 97 (also called Peak E) = 1, 1′-Ethylidenebis (L-tryptophan)(EBT) - Indole ring, dimer structure (double tryptophan molecule), formed from acetaldehyde and tryptophan under acidic conditions.
  • 8. Peak 200 (also called Peak A) = 2-(3-indolylmethyl) L-tryptophan (IMT) - Indole ring, 2-tryptophan derivative.
  • 9. Peak I (also called Peak 5 or UV-5) = 3-(Phenylamino) alanine (3-PAA) - Only non-tryptophan related case-associated contaminant; similar to PAP (3-phenylamino-1,2-propanediol) contaminant found in toxic oil syndrome (TOS).
  • 10. Peak C = 3a-hydroxy-1, 2, 3, 3a, 8, 8a-hexahydropyrrolo-[2, 3-b] indole-2-carboxylic acid (PIC) - Indoline ring, (MH = 221.0919), is one of the most abundant compounds of unbound tryptophan during oxidative treatment. Peak C is linked to Peak X in 5-Hydroxy-tryptophan.
  • 11. Peak FF = 2-(2-hydroxy indoline) L-tryptophan (HIT) - Indoline ring (MH = 338.1524), 2-tryptophan derivative.

12.     Peak AAA = molecular structure is still unknown - only compound that was significantly associated with EMS cases using conditional logistic regression analysis.

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1. Marylin F Rumph - November 11, 2008

I live in America and I am one of the persons with EMS mentioned in this article struggling to “stay alive” as it says…..or to maintain some amount of functional life. Unfortunately, EMS is a chronic disease with an uncertain course for those who were afflicted in the late 1980s especialy 1989090. I got sick in late July 1989 at age 39, am now 58, and though we were told we’d probaby all be better before ten years, I’d like you to know that that has not turned out to be true.

No matter the cause, and I do blame the GE process more than the lack of filtration used at SDKK at that time, those of us with EMS have just been forgotten here by the medical and research establishment. Doctors have been fed lies about EMS in my opinion or at the least have misinformation about the disease…….many think you have to have eosinophilia all the time or you can’t have EMS or that EMS “ended” many years ago. I am much worse than I was ten years ago. I can barely walk from my door to the car. I’m not overweight. I have various secondary conditions to EMS. There are still people dying of EMS mainly due to the secondary diseases.

I believe people should also know that tryptophan is being widely used again here and maybe elsewhere, and one CEO of a company that sells on the internet told me that most of it is coming from SE Asia mostly China. All of us are aware of the problems with toxic foods and dangerous toys etc coming out of China in recent years.

2. Dave - February 24, 2009

Bogus Link Between 1,1 EBT and genetic engineering.
I worked for a company that looked into producing tryptophan on a large scale using GE modified E. Coli. Although we used a GE organism we definitively showed that EBT was NOT produced in the fermenter, but WAS produced in the holding tank the fermenter was dumped into. The EBT formed somehow in the tank, which was held in acidic condition before further downstream processing . We also clearly demonstrated that carbon filtration was effective in removing 100% of the EBT.
So Showa Denko may have had faulty or non existant carbon filtration, but they did not fully understand the CHEMISTRY of tryptophan compounds. Nor did they understand the correlation between EBT and EMS and Im not sure that causal link has been irrefutably made.
We did not use the Bacillus organism which Showa used, but it should have been easy to rule the organism out. Most likely, the EBT was formed during downstream processing. Im amazed there is still any conjecture about this. Im sympathetic to the plight of those suffering from EMS, but I find it amazing that this case is held up as an example of GMO run amok by people who really dont understand it.

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