October 22nd 2010

Leptospirosis is a potentially-fatal infectious disease caused by exposure to contaminated water. During a 2007 epidemic in Cuba, a homeopathic medicine was given to 2.3 million people at high risk of infection, while the remaining 8.8 million population were left untreated. In this study by Brach et al, the largest-ever research study assessing a homeopathic medicine, the homeopathic treatment was “strongly associated with a drastic reduction of disease incidence resulting in complete control of the epidemic.”

Three weeks after the homeoprophylactic (HP) intervention, a dramatic decrease was seen in the number of confirmed cases, from 38 prior to the intervention, to 4-6 cases per week (per 100 000 people) after the intervention – well below the forecasted rate of infection. This drop coincided with the point when HP treatment had been administered to 70% of the target population.

The total number of infections in the treated area dropped from 401 cases in 2007 to 64 in 2008 representing a 84% decline in incidence, whereas the non-treated area saw an increase in number of cases from 309 cases in 2007 to 376 in 2008 representing a 21% increase.

Homeoprophylaxis was given to 92% of the 2.3 million high-risk population; in addition to this 15,000 doses of conventional vaccine were administered to 0.6% of the high-risk population. Rates of infection were compared with rainfall, as the incidence of Leptospirosis is usually highest during periods of high rainfall. Although rainfall generally decreased in 2008, the rate of infection increased in the non treated area, whereas it decreased significantly in the treated area.

Although these results are very promising, it is important to stress that this study is not a clinical trial – there is no placebo control and a number of confounding factors are present such as the parallel use of conventional vaccines on 0.6% of the treated region. Also difficult to assess, is the effect of the mass scale intervention itself in terms of bringing awareness to the people of non-medical preventions measures (water treatment etc). No mention is made of such information being delivered, or not, to the population.

That being said, the authors bring to bear as many controls as possible in the context of such a large scale intervention (comparison with non-treated area, mathematical modelling of incidence rates, comparison to rainfall). This report builds a strong case for considering Homeoprophylaxis as a ‘feasible tool for epidemic control’ worthy of further research. In view of the effectiveness, speed of action and overall cost effectiveness of the intervention, this avenue of research is one that merits much attention in the context of emergency mass immunisation programs.

Full text

Bracho G et al. Large-scale application of highly-diluted bacteria for Leptospirosis epidemic control. Homeopathy, 2010; 99: 156-166