New Hope for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma, and Lupus

New Hope for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma, and Lupus

Julian Whitaker, MD

Rheumatoid arthritis struck Ethyl Snooks and ravaged her body like a forest fire. In just a few months this healthy, energetic woman became unable to bathe and dress herself, or even to raise her arms to eat. In six months deformities in her feet and hands set in, and the chief of rheumatology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recommended that she consult a surgeon.

She tried many of the usual treatments available for rheumatoid arthritis, changed her diet substantially, took vitamins and minerals, and was given a trial of DMSO. None of these gave her anything but temporary relief of symptoms. She eventually did have surgery on both feet: The metatarsal bones were removed, and her deformed toes had to be fractured to straighten them out. In both hands, the joints in her knuckles had to be replaced with artificial ones.

Then after nearly 15 years of suffering, Ethyl started taking low doses of minocycline, a derivative of one of the more common antibiotics, tetracycline. Within 18 months of beginning this treatment, she was free of all symptoms of disease, and all her blood tests returned to normal.

The Infection Connection

Though I have often spoken against the overuse of antibiotics for colds and flu, the long-term use of low-dose tetracycline-class antibiotics, which are known for their lack of toxicity, can be miraculous for patients with autoimmune diseases. Let me explain.

Rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosis, psoriatic arthritis, and scleroderma, which belong to a large family of autoimmune diseases, are all marked by an immune system attack of connective tissues in the joints. What prompts this attack?

The late Thomas McPherson Brown, MD, former Chairman of the Department of Medicine at George Washington School of Medicine in Washington, DC, believed that the offending agents were small bacteria called mycoplasma. As these microbes settle in the connective tissue, die, multiply, and release toxins, they activate the immune system, leading to an inflammatory response that generates disease symptoms.

Dr. Brown was the first physician to isolate mycoplasma from the fluid of a joint of a patient with arthritis. His research was published in Nature in 1939, and this began his lifelong commitment to using antibiotics for treating collagen diseases. For more than half a century he treated rheumatoid arthritis as an infectious disease, often with unbelievable success.

Low-Dose Antibiotics Help Gorillas—and Humans

In the mid-1960s, Dr. Brown was called upon to treat a gorilla named Tomoka with a severe case of inflammatory arthritis at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. This quickly established antibiotic therapy as a new standard of treatment for captive elephants and primates with inflammatory conditions.

Even though Dr. Brown’s treatment of a far larger number of humans was equally successful, rheumatologists ignored this therapy, preferring powerful and dangerous drugs such as methotrexate, prednisone, Plaquinil, and gold shots. However, in January 1995, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 219 patients with rheumatoid arthritis was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. This study, which underscored the efficacy of minocycline treatment, should have opened the minds of conventional physicians.

Unfortunately, this valuable therapy, which stands to benefit millions, is still gathering dust on the shelf.


  • Dr. Brown’s protocol includes low-dose antibiotics, such as doxycycline or Minocin, and periodic intravenous therapies of the antibiotic Cleocin. To learn more, visit The Road Back Foundation’s website at http://www.roadback.org/, which was founded to continue the work of Dr. Brown.
  • To learn about treatment of autoimmune disorders at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, contact a Patient Services Representative at (866) 944-8253 or click here.


  • Brown, T. and Scammel, H. The Arthritis Breakthrough. M. Evans and Company, New York, NY, 1992.
  • Tilley, BC et al. Minocycline in rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of Int Med. Jan. 15, 1995;122(2):81-89.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 1995. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healingclick here.

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