Clioquinol, a Ciba-Geigy product, was considered to be perfectly safe, its effects confined to the digestive tract where it was supposed to destroy germs associated with diarrhea without being absorbed into the bloodstream. However, Dr Beppu demonstrated this belief to be untrue. When he fed the chemical to experimental mice they all died. He had hoped the mice would display the nerve damage associated with SMON, but when they did not do so he discontinued the experiment, not realizing the significance of their deaths.

The commission's survey revealed also that a number of SMON patients had displayed a strange green coating on their tongues, and other patients had passed greenish coloured urine. Chemical tests revealed the colouring agent to be an altered form of Clioquinol.

This evidence was enough for Professor Tadao Tsubaki, a neurologist at Niigata University, to state outright his belief that SMON was caused by Clioquinol and not by a virus. This viewpoint, which one would think would have been clear to everybody by now, was not readily accepted, particularly by doctors who habitually and routinely prescribed the drug.

But the evidence was irreftitable. The SMON epidemic had clearly commenced within a short time after the government's approval for pharmaceutical companies to manufacture Clioquinol in Japan, and it lasted until just after the government finally banned the drug in September 1970. Whereas 2,000 cases were reported in 1969, in 1971 the number of cases had fallen to only thirty-six, in 1972 to three and in 1973 to one.

Later investigation showed that Clioquinol caused symptoms of SMON in animals too, and that wherever in the world the drug had been used, individual cases of the condition in humans had earlier been reported as associated with the drug. Furthermore, Ciba-Geigy, the international producer of Clioquinol, had knowledge of these incidents but nevertheless continued selling the drug worldwide, a fact that later became the basis of major law suits against them. (The US Food and Drug Administration restricted the sale of Clioquinol ten years before it was banned in Japan.)

That no epidemic of SMON had occurred elsewhere is explained by several circumstances peculiar to Japan. In Japanese culture the seat of human emotions is regarded to be the stomach, rather than the heart, the Japanese people are very germ conscious; and lastly (but not least), overmedication is more common in Japan than elsewhere because doctors receive payment from the government health insurance for every drug they prescribe. Many SMON "victims" had histories of taking multiple medications, often together.

While it is easy to be wise after the event and criticize the Japanese medical establishment for its lamentable inertia in resolving the SMON problem, it can be seen that their performance was no worse than the past and ongoing performance of the establishment everywhere. The reason the highly qualified Japanese professors had not been able to discern what now appears obvious, was explained--at least in part--by Professor Kono who observed that many medical doctors simply refused to recognize that iatrogenic disease could occur. But a more fundamental reason, according to Professor Kono, was the beliefs indoctrinated into virologists generally. He added: "We were still within the grasp of the ghosts of Pasteur and Koch!"

Such is the futility--and danger--of the medical obsession with germs and viruses, and the chemical drugs with which doctors hope to destroy them.

In the words of Professor Duesberg of the University of California, considered to be the most knowledgable virologist in the world:

"SMON and AIDS are intimately connected; they are only two episodes in a long series of disasters, all emanating from a single, ongoing, selfpropagating scientific program-virus hunting. This research effort, growing relentlessly, has for three decades been misleading science and the public about medical conditions ranging from cervical cancer to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, from Alzheimer's Disease to Hepatitis C, and many more. All these smaller programs are failing in their public health goals as they prescribe the wrong treatments and preventive measures, while generating unnecessary fear among the lay public."