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Secret to COVID-19 Recovery Lives in the Gut

No bifidobacteria were found in the colons of those with severe cases, and vaccines may kill the beneficial microbes

“We discovered that people who had severe COVID lacked a certain bacteria called bifidobacteria,” says Dr. Sabine Hazan.

In a recent episode of “American Thought Leaders,” host Jan Jekielek sits down with Dr. Hazan, a gastroenterologist and the CEO of ProgenaBiome.

In their discussion, she explained how a healthy gut affected outcomes from COVID-19. With her knowledge, experience, and clinical trials, she developed and patented treatment protocols combining vitamins, minerals, and drugs that increase bifidobacteria, including vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, hydroxychloroquine, and ivermectin.

They also discussed how COVID-19 vaccines affect the microbiome, including the microbiomes of babies breastfeeding from recently vaccinated mothers.

Jan Jekielek: Here’s a recent headline in Newsweek: “It’s time for the scientific community to admit we were wrong about COVID and it cost lives.” I’m sure you’ve read this piece.

Dr. Sabine Hazan: Yes, and I’ve been saying that since I opened ProgenaBiome, my genetic research lab. I felt that even in microbiology we’ve been wrong. We always thought that we should find the bug, kill the bug, and that would be the end of the story. But it’s not.

It’s find the bug, kill the bug, but you may kill the microbiome at the same time. So it’s the beginning of a new story and a new problem. With COVID, I knew we were going to make the same mistake, which is, “Let’s find a vaccine.”

The answer to me was, “Let’s focus on the microbiome. Let’s focus on how to build immunity because our immunity is in the gut,” rather than focusing on, “Let’s kill the virus with a vaccine for a mutating virus.”

Mr. Jekielek: Please explain to everybody what microbiomes are.

Dr. Hazan: A microbiome is essentially all the bugs that are around you, that are on your skin and in your gut. It’s bacteria, viruses, and fungi. My focus is on the microbiome of the bowels, right in the colon. Why? Because everything you eat, put on your skin, and breathe goes into your colon. Put something on your skin, it goes into the blood vessels and ends up in your gut.

And so, if all those microbes eventually end up in the gut, we hypothesized that COVID has to be in the gut. We started back in January, analyzing the virus.

Mr. Jekielek: January 2020?

Dr. Hazan: Yes. Dr. Thomas Borody, who’s the father of fecal transplant, and I were watching what was happening in China and Italy. As soon as COVID reached America, my first focus was to collect the stools. In March 2020, I had doctors helping all over the country, about 400 doctors that do clinical research.

We started looking at COVID in the stools, and the people that didn’t have COVID were the people that had been treated and no longer had symptoms. The hydroxychloroquine/Z-Pak [azithromycin] was the treatment being used.

That gave us an idea that maybe hydroxy and Z-Pak were killing off the virus. Because, like other bugs, you have to kill them and then boost immunity. The first thing was finding COVID. We looked at the microbiomes and discovered that people who had severe COVID lacked a certain bacteria called bifidobacteria. But there were people in the same family who were exposed to COVID but never got it.

One farmer did this experiment. He kissed his wife, who had COVID, to catch COVID and get the immunity, but he never got it. I said to him, “I want to see your stools, and I want to see your wife’s.”

Sure enough, she had zero bifido. He had a lot. Why? Because he’s outside and in the sun, he’s playing with the cow manure, he’s drinking the raw milk from the cows. That started my train of looking at the microbiome.

I was known in the world of clinical trials for a bacteria called Clostridium difficile [C. diff], a bacteria that causes people to have diarrhea, and is caused by taking antibiotics. I was doing these clinical trials because medications weren’t working. These trials brought a new understanding of the microbiome.

Mr. Jekielek: So you’re specifically interested in this particular bacteria that comes into the gut after antibiotics. Is this what you’re known for?

Dr. Hazan: Yes, this bacteria resides in the gut but becomes toxic when we kill the microbiome around it. It’s a microbe that sustains itself with other microbes, but once you kill the rest of the microbes, it starts flaring up.

When clinical trials didn’t work, I would do a procedure called fecal transplant, taking stools from a healthy donor and putting them into the patient with C. diff. This eradicated the problem for 99 percent of my patients, which is huge.

One of my first cases was a physician who was dying. Miraculously, he lived after a fecal transplant. All we did was take the poop of his wife and put it in there. That’s why I went into the microbiome technology. I thought, “If I’m achieving an improvement in C. diff, I’m going to understand C. diff better, because now I have the technology to look at these microbes.”

So when COVID hit, I thought: “I’ve got a genetic sequencing lab and a clinical research company that submits protocols to the FDA. We have a portal and know how to write and run these protocols. Let’s get involved.”

And it was fascinating when I found COVID in the stools and when I saw that hydroxychloroquine/Z-Pak had an impact on COVID in the stools. So when the protocols of hydroxy became political, I was shocked.

Mr. Jekielek: OK. I didn’t quite catch how you figured out that this combination of hydroxy and azithromycin was impacting positively on COVID patients.

Dr. Hazan: At the beginning of the pandemic, we were all reading. We were translating journals in Italian. We were translating papers. I speak French, so I read Didier Raoult’s paper.

I started looking at his protocol as a microbiome expert. Hydroxy has the capability of transforming the pH of the cells. When the virus goes into the cell, it’s exposed to an alkaline environment. I thought it probably gets killed by the alkaline environment of the cell.

At the same time, I felt azithromycin probably killed the wall of the virus, and then zinc was blocking the virus from penetrating. That was my mindset on the hypothesis of why this combination was working for Dr. Raoult. What I added to this, and that was by looking at papers from Italy and Japan, were vitamin C and vitamin D. There was data. At the beginning of the pandemic, patients were getting discharged from the hospital after IV infusions of vitamin C.

I knew what vitamin C did to the microbiome. I knew that vitamin D increases your bifidobacteria, your good microbes that were lost after severe COVID. That was the formula I started creating.

We created a pharmaceutical company called Topelia Therapeutics and started submitting to the FDA. Within 24 hours, the FDA called me at 3 o’clock in the morning and said, “Dr. Hazan, you can run your trial.”

We wrote the protocol in mid-March. At the same time, I was treating people off-label. A hundred patients later, nobody dies. A thousand patients later, nobody is dying. Even the worst of the worst weren’t dying.

Mr. Jekielek: So this combination you devised was helping them.

Dr. Hazan: It ended up becoming not just the combination of a hydroxy, Z-Pak, vitamin C, D, and zinc. For the severe cases, we added ivermectin, which became important for those with low oxygen. At the beginning of the pandemic, we got away with hydroxy, Z-Pak, vitamin C, vitamin D. Then, as the virus became stronger during the whole Delta period, we needed to up the game a bit.

At that point, we had figured out that vitamin C and vitamin D increases your bifidobacteria. We had also figured out that severe cases of COVID had zero bifidobacteria. We realized bifidobacteria was a key point, so we started focusing on nutrition with patients, fermented food, and ivermectin.

And just to backtrack a little bit, I was doing these trials, and the FDA had approved me. The FDA basically said, “Look, you can go ahead.” So we hired New England IRB.

Mr. Jekielek: What is an IRB?

Dr. Hazan: It’s an independent board that basically looks over the protocol. We run it through the IRB, and on April 20, we got approved. Then all of a sudden on Twitter, a post goes off. “Dr. Hazan is doing unethical protocols with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, vitamin C and D, and zinc, five drugs in an open label.”

I thought, “Five drugs? First of all, it’s two drugs, two vitamins, and a mineral.”

The next thing you know, a Stat News report goes off to all the agents of the FDA, which never made it to the media that basically said, “A tweet has been going around with Dr. Hazan doing five drugs in an open-label trial. We need to be doing placebo-controlled trials.”

I said to myself, “Placebo control in the middle of a pandemic?” I ignored it, right? On Monday, I got a letter from the FDA, “Dr. Hazan, stop your trials. You need to do a placebo-controlled trial.” I said, “Can we just stop the fire first? Then, go back and see what’s happening, but let’s first stop the virus from going its course.”

Basically, I fought back about this. I said to the FDA, “Look, I’ll do a placebo-controlled trial, but I’m giving vitamins on one side, and the hydroxy/Z-Pak with the vitamins on the other.” My placebo was essentially not a placebo, it was vitamins, which got a lot of criticism. But I wasn’t going to let people die. I couldn’t just enroll them with a sugar-pill placebo.

Meanwhile, the vaccine trials had started rolling, and hydroxychloroquine became political. We started getting threatening phone calls, “How dare you give a dangerous drug to kill patients?”

I’d say, “People are dying and you’re calling me to say that I’m killing patients. I’ve never lost one patient.”

Anyway, we tried to do that clinical trial. Some doctors who didn’t want to be vaccinated joined the trial, and the key for that protocol was basically if you were exposed to patients and you weren’t wearing a mask, you were at high risk and the protocol was just two pills of hydroxy every three months, plus the vitamins every day.

From there, we recruited a lot of patients in that study and discovered that ivermectin had a role. Ivermectin and doxycycline are pretty safe. Ivermectin is given to babies with scabies, and doxycycline is given to kids for acne. The two combinations should be fine with zinc, vitamin C, and D. When we started that protocol in July, we called it Ziverdox, and we got approved by the FDA in August. There were about 30 patients, so it was easy to run.

During these trials, the hypothesis started in my mind that perhaps Streptomyces is working by increasing the bifidobacteria at the time of the cytokines storm. My hypothesis was that the bifidobacteria would just take the cytokines and flush it out of your system, letting the lungs start circulating those cytokines back into the colon.

Finding the loss of bifidobacteria in severe COVID, finding that vitamin C, vitamin D, and ivermectin increases the bifidobacteria, it’s a whole story that’s still being told.

Mr. Jekielek: How many patients have you treated since the beginning?

Dr. Hazan: The young, I gave them vitamins and they were fine. The old, with no comorbidities, it was ivermectin, doxycycline, and zinc, and they were fine. With the severe, the hypoxic, I gave them Z-Pak, vitamin C, D, zinc, hydroxychloroquine, and ivermectin, and they were fine. No one died.

We are talking about thousands of patients. On top of that, I gave my protocol to a lot of doctors. We had formed an alliance, the C-19 group. We were in constant contact, helping each other and learning.

What I couldn’t understand is, here I am reaching all these successes, yet there was this whole trashing of early treatment for one agenda. While they were trashing my treatment, I said, “Since the agenda is the vaccine, let’s look at what the vaccine’s doing in the microbiome.” At the same time they started rolling out these vaccines, I started enrolling doctors that were getting vaccinated.

I said, “Can I get your stools before and after you get vaccinated?”

With the first four patients, I started noticing a month later, the bifidobacteria, this important microbe, is dropping in patients post-vaccination. I started asking myself, “What’s going on here? Is it creating a bifidophage?” Ten, 20, 30, patients later, we’re seeing this killing of the bifidobacteria. Well, there’s no way I was going to publish this, because nobody would have accepted it, so I decided to submit it to the American College of Gastro as a poster, where it won the best research award as a poster.

All my colleagues called me and said, “I saw your data. That’s incredible. How do you think this is happening? The vaccine is supposed to be improving your immunity. We all know bifidobacteria is a huge part of immunity. How do you think it’s happening?”

Then I said, “I think it’s creating a bacteriophage or bifidophage.” What we noticed in the four patients that we followed, who were in amazing shape, we followed them for 90 days and then next thing you know, their bifidobacteria dropped to zero—from a million to zero. It kept persisting.

Then, as we were looking at the microbiome of breastfeeding newborns, we started noticing that there was no bifidobacteria in them.

Newborns are supposed to have a ton of bifidobacteria. Ninety percent of the microbiome of babies is bifidobacteria. We asked, “How come these breastfeeding babies born to moms who were vaccinated have zero bifidobacteria? Is the spike protein going to the breast milk and into the baby’s gut?”

I had a different vision than everybody else. I was looking at how to treat the virus knowing something nobody knew. It was kind of epic, but at the same time I knew, “If they’re going to prove me wrong, let’s see why.” This definitely needs to be looked at, because the microbiome has such importance in neurological problems, in cancer, in Crohn’s, and in Lyme disease.

Mr. Jekielek: What was the impact on you and your work when you were using these different treatments?

Dr. Hazan: We had threats when we started the hydroxychloroquine protocol. People hated Trump, especially. I’m a Malibu physician and I have a lot of Malibu clients. When I would say, “Look, I’m going to put you on hydroxychloroquine,” patients who hated him would say, “No, I’d rather die than take hydroxychloroquine.”

That’s when my anger during the pandemic came out. I was tough with them to save their lives. They were so thankful afterward. One guy couldn’t breathe and I told him, “Look, tomorrow you’re going to be dead. There’s nothing I can do about it unless you let me.” I didn’t want to be mean, but I meant to snap them out of that trend of fear.

This guy, the next day, he could breathe better. All my patients were like, “This stuff really works.” Meanwhile, our office was hammered with phone calls and threats. It was a crazy time.

Mr. Jekielek: What happened with these patents that you filed?

Dr. Hazan: I created them and then realized somewhere along the line that because this was so political, I didn’t want my research jeopardized. People tried to buy these patents, but I didn’t feel comfortable selling them. I’m not convinced they should be a product, to be quite honest, because I feel that what I did during the pandemic was really the art of medicine.

I really feel that it is not a one-pill solution. It’s not one formula for all. Sure, the formula, the concept of hydroxy/Z-Pak, vitamin C, D, and zinc was great for a certain population, the population that probably had a destroyed microbiome to begin with. I’m not sure that for the healthy young population this was the solution.

There will always be a population with something in their microbiome that is stronger. We need to figure out who has the resilient microbiome and learn from them rather than continuing with the same method of vaccinating everyone or giving medications to everyone. Let’s figure out how, when a person has a problem, to treat the problem. Treat the population that’s at high risk, and then the population that’s healthy.

The mistake we made in this pandemic is we generalized, we globalized. We thought everybody was equal in their microbiome. We’re not.

Africans, for example, have a different microbiome than Americans. They probably would have been fine with COVID because there is diversity in Africa. If you look at the Amish population versus a person in New York, it’s a completely different microbiome.

Mr. Jekielek: From what I understand, a lot of people have used your formula and patents, and you’re not collecting on this.

Dr. Hazan: No, I’m not. First of all, I wanted to show there was a woman behind all this. All too often in science, we women do not get to be shown.

The second thing, it was my donation to humanity. It was like leaving a mark in history. The spending on all this research, it’s in the millions. Some of that was my savings and my retirement. But I felt this was something I needed to do.

It was my way to show people that if you do good, goodness comes back. How thankful I am that I’ve been fine this pandemic and that my family’s been fine. Health is the most important thing we can have.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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