Blog Post

Does Live Blood Cell Analysis Work?

laboratoryWhile giving a conference on the New Age and occult in Canada this past weekend, I was asked about live blood cell analysis and if this is New Age.

I’m happy to report that it’s not New Age – but it’s also not a legitimate practice.

For those of you who never heard of it, live blood cell analysis (aka dark-field video analysis, nutritional blood analysis, vital hematology, biocytronics) relies on the use of high-resolution dark field microscopy to observe live blood cells for the purpose of diagnosing diseases.

This is an alternative practice which has no scientific evidence to support its efficacy.

The typical method used is in analyzing a patient’s blood is to take a drop from the fingertip and place it on a glass slide which is then covered by another slide to keep it moist. The slide is viewed at high magnification with a dark-field microscope that projects the image onto a television monitor so both the patient and practitioner can see the blood cells. The results are then used to prescribe vitamins, supplements or other treatments.

Stephen Barrett MD reports that most of the practitioners of live cell analysis are chiropractors, naturopaths, or bogus “nutrition consultants.”

“Although a few characteristics of blood (such as the relative size of the red cells) are observable, live cell analysts invariably misinterpret other things, such as the extent of red blood cell clumping, changes in the shape of the cells, and other artifacts that occur as the blood sample dries. Moreover, most practitioners who perform the test are not qualified to manage the problems they purport to diagnose.”

He also uncovered a history of bilking consumers by practitioners of live blood cell analysis.

“During the mid-1980s, one company marketing live-cell equipment projected that a practitioner who persuades one patient per day to embrace a supplement program based on the test would net over $60,000 per year for testing and supplement sales," Barrett reports. "Another company estimated that with five new patients a day (22 days a month) paying $30 for the test and $50 for supplements, practitioners would gross over $100,000 per year just on initial visits.”

One of the biggest individual promoters of the testing, James R. Privitera, MD, spent 55 days in jail in 1980 for conspiring to prescribe and distribute laetrile (a bogus cancer remedy) and was only released because then California Governor Jerry Brown pardoned him. He went on to have his medical license suspended for four months by the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance who placed him on ten years’ probation. During that time he was forbidden to tell patients they had cancer unless it was confirmed by an appropriate board-certified specialist, nor was he permitted to make claims that he could cure cancer through nutrition.

Apparently, he didn’t learn his lesson and was implicated in the death of a 71 year-old woman in 1999.

“ . . .  [S]he complained of a headache while in Privitera's waiting room. Documents in the case state that Privitera prescribed 20,000 units of heparin (an anticoagulant) to be placed under the woman's tongue, examined a blood sample with a dark-field microscope, concluded that the blood specimen showed too much tendency to clot, and prescribed another 20,000 units of heparin to be given under the patient's skin. Soon afterward, the patient became lightheaded, vomited, and passed out. She was rushed to a hospital where it was noted that she was comatose and was bleeding from several places. She died a few hours later, apparently as a result of a massive hemorrhage inside her head.

"In 2003, the Medical Board of California charged that Privitera had (a) failed to properly evaluate the woman's headache, (b) had no documented rationale for administering heparin, and (c) had administered an overdose. The case was settled with a stipulation under which Privitera agreed to be reprimanded, pay $5,000 for costs, and take courses in prescribing and medical recordkeeping.”

A former vice president of the National Council Against Health Fraud, James Lowell, Ph.D., also documented a demonstration of three practitioners using live cell analysis at health expositions and found that none of them took precautions to prevent the blood from clotting or drying out on the slides. They also failed to clean the slides properly between patients and provided bogus results to one patient simply because the scope was out-of-focus.

I could go on and on but I think you get the message. No matter how scientific the advertisement may sound, avoid live blood cell analysis.