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Live Blood Cell Analysis

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Live blood cell analysis is carried out by placing a drop of blood from the patient's fingertip on a microscope slide under a glass cover slip to keep it from drying out. The slide is then viewed at high magnification with a dark-field microscope that forwards the image to a television monitor. Both practitioner and patient can then see the blood cells, which appear as dark bodies outlined in white. The practitioner may take polaroid photographs of the television picture or may videotape the procedure for himself and/or the patient. The results are then used as a basis for prescribing supplements. The procedure is also called live cell analysis, dark-field video analysis, nutritional blood analysis, libe blood analysis, and several other names. Most of its users are chiropractors, naturopaths, or bogus "nutrition consultants."

According to a flyer from a Los Angeles chiropractor:

Live Blood Analysis is a simple procedure for obtaining a quick and accurate assessment of your blood. With only a sample, taken virtually without pain from your finger, [the test] is able to provide a composite of over 25 aspects from your live blood. Darkfield microscopy now allows us to observe multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies, toxicity, tendencies toward allergic reaction, excess fat circulation, liver weakness and arteriosclerosis.

The web site of the Integrated Medical Center, Annandale, Virginia, states:

Blood is magnified by 30,000 times, giving us the ability to document your condition, monitor your progression while on treatment. The blood is the pathway to the flesh and tells all. Using this technology allows us to monitor your condition and adjust as needed. Your blood is the best place to find quick result and determine if you therapy is effective. Quick response spells maximum results.

The Pacelli Chiropractic & Health Potential Complex Web site states:

How often do you get to see if small changes in nutrition, really can make a difference? Well in this case, that's how we work. After making our recommendations, we repeat the test in 2 weeks, and look to see if we see changes. This way you get to see the changes in your blood as we help correct the problems, it also allows us to check dosages to make sure that you are getting the proper amount of the vitamin, mineral, protein, or enzyme you need to restore you to optimal health.

These claims are sheer bunkum. Dark-field microscopy is a valid scientific tool in which special lighting is used to examine specimens of cells and tissues. The objects being viewed stand out against a dark background-the opposite of what occurs during regular microscopy. This allows the observer to see things that might not be visible with standard lighting. Connecting a television monitor to a microscope for diagnostic purposes is also a legitimate practice. However, live cell analysis is not. 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.

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. 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.

Today's most active individual promoter of live-cell analysis is probably James R. Privitera, M.D., of Covina, California, who claims that "clot malfunction" is an underlying cause of many diseases, can be diagnosed with live cell analysis, and can be treated with large doses of dietary supplements. His book, Silent Clots, describes his "general daily guidelines [for supplements] that have worked well for many patients as an anti-clotting program." The book also describes regimens for arthritis, asthma, baldness, bladder infections, cancer, colds, colitis, cramps, diabetes, diarrhea, diverticulosis, eczema, and edema, and includes case histories of patients he treated for many other conditions [1]. I do not believe there is any scientific evidence for these claims or that these regimens are effective as Privitera claims. His's web site offers more than 150 supplement products for sale.

In 1975, Privitera was convicted of conspiring to prescribe and distribute laetrile and was sentenced to six months in prison. (Laetrile is a quack cancer remedy.) In 1980, after the appeals process ended, he served 55 days in jail but was released after being pardoned by California Governor Jerry Brown. (The pardon occurred in response to a letter-writing campaign generated by the National Health Federation, a group that espouses what it calls "health freedom.") Then, because Privitera had been prescribing unapproved substances (including laetrile, calcium pangamate, and DMSO) for the treatment of cancer, the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance suspended his medical license for four months and placed him on ten years' probation under board supervision. During the probationary period, Privitera was "prohibited from making any representation that he is able to cure cancer through nutrition." He was also forbidden to tell patients they had cancer unless the diagnosis was confirmed in writing by an appropriate board-certified specialist. During the probationary period, Privitera commercialized live-cell analysis and founded two companies that marketed devices for doing it. Silent Clots mentions that in 1993, a federal judge signed an order authorizing Internal Revenue Service agents to enter his clinic premises to effect a levy and that a seizure was made. However, the book provides no further details about his tax-related difficulty.

Critical Reports

During the mid-1980s, National Council Against Health Fraud vice president James Lowell, Ph.D., watched three practitioners demonstrate live cell analysis at health expositions. Lowell noted:

Live cell analysis is also promoted by Infinity2, of Scottsdale, Arizona, a multilevel company whose distributors often demonstrate their wares at chiropractic conventions. Infinity2 calls the test "live cell microscopy" and recruits licensed health professionals to use the procedure to sell its products. In 1995, I was tested at a national chiropractic convention where two teams of Infinity distributors had exhibits. One exhibitor said I had "mild B12 deficiency" and "maldigestion" that could weaken my immune system and cause fatigue. The other said my blood cells showed evidence of "liver toxicity," "bacterial infection," and "free radical damage." In both cases the recommended "treatment" was enzyme pills, which the company was marketing with false claims that "enzyme deficiency" is widespread among Americans. To reinforce their that the pills could help me, both practitioners gave me enzyme pills, repeated the procedure several minutes later, and said that the problems were no longer visible. Unknown to them, however, I had faked taking the pills, so the "improvements" they saw had nothing to do with them. The most likely explanation is that the specimens were examined differently. Blood dries more quickly near the edges of the slide than near the center. Thus "improvement" will occur if the first specimen is examined near an edge and the second specimen is examined near its center.

Legal Action

In 1996, the Pennsylvania Department of Laboratories informed three Pennsylvania chiropractors that Infinity2's "Nutritional Blood Analysis" could not be used for diagnostic purposes unless they maintain a laboratory that has both state and federal certification for complex testing [3]. The company's attorney replied:

As background, you should know that part of our business activity is supplying a microscope system that is equipped for the demonstration of blood samples on a video monitor. We teach and recommend the use of this system as a health education demonstration. In our training and system we do not teach, promote or address in any manner using the system for "analysis" or any other medical purpose.

Our system is based on obtaining a written nutritional and lifestyle analysis from patients of doctors using the microscopy system. Once this questionnaire and evaluation of lifestyle and nutrition is examined by the doctor, the doctor then makes specific recommendations to the patient, based solely and exclusively on the nutritional analysis and personal interview with the patient.

After any recommendation has been made for altering the patient's lifestyle or nutritional habits, the doctor may place a single drop of blood on a sample slide for viewing through the dark field microscope which is then displayed on a video monitor.

This demonstration is a powerful motivating tool to encourage a doctor's patient to accept the doctor's previously made recommendations and alter his or her lifestyle to a healthier form of living.

The doctor performing the demonstration never makes any analysis, determination or recommendation based on the video demonstration. There is no commentary given regarding the state of the patient's blood or anything seen in the bloodscreen itself other than to educate the patient by pointing out features of the blood such as red cells, white cells, and plasma. The patient is able to view a sample of his/her own blood, which results in the motivation that can lead to beneficial lifestyle changes for the individual patient [4].

A Laboratory Department official then informed the attorney that certification would be required if the practitioner:

Very few if any chiropractors would have reason to seek laboratory certification, and even if they did, I doubt that permission would be granted to perform this test for diagnostic purposes. If you encounter anyone who performs any type of live cell analysis, please report this to your state department of laboratories and send a copy of your notice to me at P.O. Box 1646, Allentown, PA 18105.


1. Privitera J, Stang A. Silent Clots: Life's Biggest Killers. Lockstep Medicine's Conspiracy to Suppress the Test That Should Be Done in Emergency Rooms Throughout The World. Covina, Calif.: The Catacombs Press, 1996.
2. Lowell JA. Live cell analysis: High-tech hokum. Nutrition Forum 3:81-85, 1986.
3. Wlazelek A. Chiropractors cease blood cell show and tell. State restricts the use of magnified images to sell vitamins, supplements. The Morning Call, April 12, 1996, page B6.
4. Woodruff SM. Letter to Joseph W. Gasiewski, Director, Division of Laboratory Improvement, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Jan 17, 1996.
5. Gasiewski JW. Letter to Samuel M. Woodruff, General Counsel, Infinity2, Feb 16, 1996.

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