Acid-Fast Bacteria
Discovered In Prostate Cancer

2004 Alan R Cantwell, M.D.
Los Angeles, CA
Are infectious and unrecognized bacteria involved in the cause of prostate cancer? Can so-called "cancer microbes" cause cancer? Is there a connection between prostate cancer and a cancer-causing virus common in AIDS patients? These controversial questions concerning the cause of prostate cancer are explored here. In addition, microphotographs of the newly-discovered bacteria found in prostate cancer are presented.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in American men, with 230,000 new cases diagnosed yearly and 30,000 deaths annually (double the number of yearly AIDS deaths in the U.S. ). This slow-growing cancer primarily affecting older men. Elderly men with prostate cancer often die from some other cause.
Autopsy studies have shown that by the time men reach age 50, already thirty percent of men have microscopic evidence of prostate cancer; and at age 80 there is an 80% chance a man will have this cancer. Standard treatment is surgical removal of the entire gland (along with a portion of the urethra contained within it) or a series of radiation treatments to the prostate. Both procedures often result in urinary incontinence and impotence.
Since the late 1980's the PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test has been widely used to screen for prostate cancer. Previously, a rising PSA level of 4 nanograms or more signified possible cancer. However, a new study in May 2004 indicates that 15% of men with PSA levels less than 4 had cancer when their prostates were assessed with biopsies. The results of this new study is causing great controversy in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.
What causes prostate cancer?
Like most forms of cancer, there is no known cause. If the cancer is confined to the prostate a cure is probable, but once it spreads to other parts of the body, there is no cure.
An April 2004 report widely heralded in the media suggests that men who ejaculate more frequently might lower their risk for prostate cancer. A May 2004 report also warned that men with a history of sexual promiscuity and sexually-transmitted diseases were more likely to get prostate cancer.
Acute and chronic inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) is a common and painful condition affecting younger and middle-aged men. The cause of chronic prostatitis is incompletely understood, although antibiotic therapy is employed in the majority of cases. A variety of bacteria (staphylococci, streptococci, corynebacteria, and others) have been cultured from prostatitis. There is debate whether this ailment is a risk factor for cancer. Benign prostatic enlargement (hyperplasia) , another common condition of older men, is not a precursor to carcinoma.
There is also disagreement regarding the role of testosterone in the development of prostate cancer.
Researchers have recently cautioned men about ingesting excessive amounts of zinc supplements, claiming that 100 milligrams of zinc daily could more than double the risk of prostate cancer. DHEA, another popular supplement, is also suspect because some fear that the increased levels of testosterone seen with daily DHEA pills could stimulate the growth of a tiny prostate tumor that would otherwise have remained dormant.
Prostate Cancer and Kaposi's sarcoma virus infection
Over the years a number of viruses (the cytomegalovirus, human papilloma virus, various herpes viruses, and the hepatitis B virus) have been suspected of causing or complicating prostate cancer. A very recent report suggests the Kaposi's sarcoma virus, also known as human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8), might also be involved .
The Kaposi's sarcoma virus is intimately connected with the epidemic of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS. Prior to the AIDS epidemic in gay men in the late 1970's, so-called "classic" Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) in the U.S. was a rare cancer tumor found primarily in elderly men of Jewish and Italian extraction.
When AIDS began exclusively in the gay male population in America in the late 1970s, KS skin tumors in young homosexuals became the "Scarlet Letter" of the new disease. Up to one-third of AIDS patients now carry the KS virus. When AIDS began, one in three gay AIDS patients had KS skin lesions. Now, only one in ten men with AIDS have KS lesions.
Infection with HIV makes patients more vulnerable to certain cancers, particularly lymphoma, KS, and uterine cancer. However, prostate cancer in HIV-infected men is uncommon.
Although cases of "classic" KS were first diagnosed in Europe in 1872, the KS virus was only discovered in 1994 in cases of AIDS-related KS. This KS virus has also been found in other forms of cancer, such as lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
A 2004 study by LJ Hoffman and associates at the University of Pittsburgh tested the blood of prostate cancer patients for antibodies to the KS virus antigens. Remarkably, 40% of men from Trinidad and Tobago and 20% of U.S. men tested positive for antibodies to the KS virus. This was considerably higher than an age-matched control group of Trinidad men (23%) and American men (5%). The researchers conclude that the KS virus could play a role in the development of prostate cancer.
In the U.S. the general incidence of KS virus in blood donors is 5%. However, a 2002 study of Texas blood donors indicated a 15% infection rate.
The emergence of the KS virus worldwide indicates the virus has been introduced in recent decades. The fact that both HIV and the KS virus were initially introduced exclusively into the gay American population in the late 1970s has received little comment. One can perhaps easily explain the introduction of a new HIV virus of supposed African origin, but what is the explanation for the additional and simultaneous introduction of a second virus - the KS virus - into gay men?
At present, the blood supply is not screened to eliminate donors carrying the KS virus. Gay men, and any man who has had sex with another man since 1978, are routinely banned as donors, and all blood is screened for HIV. Yet, KS virus carriers are not excluded. This alone is good reason for any person undergoing elective major surgery (like prostate gland removal) to donate their own blood beforehand in the event that a blood transfusion is needed during or after surgery.
Cancer and the Cancer Microbe
Although medical science claims the cause of most cancers is unknown, there is evidence accumulated since the late 19th century to show that cancer is a disease caused by infectious bacteria (not to be confused with viruses which are not visible microscopically). In 1890 the noted Scottish pathologist William Russell (1852-1940) discovered round forms in cancer tissue which he interpreted as "the characteristic organism of cancer." These forms were subsequently discredited as infectious agents but have became known to every pathologist as "Russell bodies." (For more details see, "The Russell Body: The forgotten clue to the bacterial cause of cancer" at:
The most vocal proponent of bacteria as a cause of cancer was the late Virginia Livingston, M.D. In 1950, Virginia Wuerthele-Caspe Livingston and Eleanor Alexander-Jackson (a microbiologist), along with John A Anderson (head of the Department of Bacteriology at Rutgers), James Hillier (head of the electron microscopy at the RCA Victor Laboratories at Princeton), Roy Allen (a renowned microscopist), and Lawrence W Smith (author of a well-known pathology textbook used in medical colleges), all combined their talents to write a paper entitled "Cultural Properties and Pathogenicity of Certain Microorganisms Obtained from Various Proliferative and Neoplastic Diseases," published in the December issue of The American Journal of the Medical Sciences. The characteristics of the cancer microbe in blood, tissue, and culture, were described in detail; and the extreme pleomorphic nature of the organism was revealed in photos taken with the electron microscope at a magnification of 31,000X. (The ordinary light microscope only magnifies a thousand times.)
The cancer microbe, which Livingston later called Progenitor cryptocides, was filterable through a pore designed to hold back bacteria, indicating that the smallest forms of the microbe were indeed "virus-sized." However, with time these filter-passing were able to grow and revert back to the size of conventional bacteria.
The microbe was characterized as pleomorphic, that is, having more than one form and size. The smallest forms of the organism were virus-like, and the larger bacterial forms were comparable to what bacteriologists call "mycoplasma", "L-forms" and "cell-wall deficient forms." The largest forms of the organism resembled what Russell called "the cancer parasite." Livingston believed the organism was closely related to the mycobacteria, the species of acid-fast bacteria that causes tuberculosis. She claimed the "acid-fast" staining method was essential to identify the microbe in tissue and in culture.
In a series of papers Livingston and her colleagues all continued important cancer microbe research showing the characteristic "connective tissue parasite" of cancer, the germ that could be found inside the cell (intracellular) and outside the cell (extracellular) in all cancers they studied. Livingston always stressed that the microbe tends to involve the collagenous (connective) tissue, and the photographs presented here in prostate cancer confirm that.
When she died in 1990 at the age of 84, she was widely regarded as a quack, particularly by the American Cancer Society which claimed her cancer microbe did not exist. Likewise, a bulletin published by the National Cancer institute on Nov 30, 1990 stated: "There is no scientific evidence to confirm Livingston's theories of cancer causation."
More details covering a century of cancer microbe research can be found in my book, The Cancer Microbe: The Hidden Killer in Cancer, AIDS, and Other Immune Diseases (1990) , in Cell Wall Deficient Bacteria (1993) by Lida Mattman, Ph.D., in Can Bacteria Cause Cancer?: Alternative Medicine Confronts Big Science (1997) by David Hess, and also by initiating a computer search at and typing in "cancer bacteria", "cancer microbe", or "cancer-associated bacteria."
Over the past four decades personal publications in medical journals record the presence of cancer bacteria in various cancers, including breast cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma, Hodgkin's disease, mycosis fungoides, as well as in non-cancerous diseases like scleroderma, lupus erythematosus, and sarcoidosis. Additional papers on the microbiology of cancer are presented online at the Journal of Independent Medical Research web site ( References and abstracts on 10 cancer microbe medical publications can be found at the National Library of Medicine's "PubMed" web site ( (Type in "Cantwell AR + cancer bacteria".
According to Livingston, the cancer microbe is present in the blood, tissue, excreta, and body fluids of all human beings. When the immune system is functioning normally these microbes did not cause disease. However, when tissue is damaged or weakened these microbes became aggressive and pathogenic, producing hardening and thickening of the tissue (such as found in scleroderma and heart disease), inflammation (autoimmune diseases and sarcoidosis) and proliferative and cancerous changes. The cancer microbe is essential to our life biology. When conditions are adverse, it emerges and reverts to its pathogenic form .
Livingston's research is connected with newer microbiologic findings indicating that the blood of all human beings is infected with a variety of so-called "cell wall deficient" bacteria. Tiny, virus-like forms of the cancer microbes are undoubtedly related to the tiniest of newly-discovered bacteria currently called nanobacteria. These previously neglected and largely-unstudied nanobacteria, which lie in size between the normal-sized bacteria and the smallest viruses, are thought to be involved in a variety of skin and heart ailments presently labeled as diseases of unknown etiology. An excellent source of up-to-date nanobacteria research can be found at the Nanobac Pharmaceutical web site ( ).
Detecting Acid-Fast Cancer Bacteria in Prostate cancer
In December 2003 my partner of 30 years was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He is a 68 year-old Italian-American who has always been in good health. His PSA was abnormally elevated to 9, and a digital rectal examination by the urologist revealed a hardened area on the right side of the gland. Multiple biopsies were performed from six areas of the prostate gland and three were positive for adenocarcinoma.
Two months before the prostate cancer diagnosis, he had a skin biopsy performed on a small reddish skin lesion on the right lower leg. The pathology report was interpreted as Kaposi's sarcoma. The lesion totally disappeared after the biopsy site healed and there has been no recurrence.
In view of the frequent association of KS with AIDS, an HIV test was performed and was negative. Thus, his KS diagnosis was consistent with the pre-AIDS "classic" type of KS which, although rare, is found most often in elderly Jews and Italians in America. His blood was not tested for the KS virus. However, blood tests did reveal past asymptomatic infection with the hepatitis B virus, and he has a history of recurrent skin infection with herpes simplex virus.
A prostatectomy, along with removal of the surrounding lymph nodes, was performed in March 2004. Microscopic examination of this tissue showed the cancer entirely confined to the prostate with no cancer detected in the nodes. Approximately 25% of the gland was involved with invasive adenocarcinoma. (Cancerous prostate glands removed at surgery often tend to be multifocal, meaning that more than one part of the gland is affected by cancer.)
In view of my previous cancer microbe studies, I requested that the pathologist supply me with a Fite-stained tissue section of his prostate tissue. The Fite stain is an "acid-fast" stain traditionally used for the detection of acid-fast tuberculosis-type bacteria. The acid-fast stain is essential to detect cancer-associated bacteria. One of the reasons pathologists do not identify bacteria in cancer is that the hematoxylin- eosin tissue stain, routinely employed by pathologists for diagnosis, does not stain cancer microbes.
Because bacteria are so small, it is necessary to study the tissue under oil immersion. That is, a drop of oil must be put on the slide and the tissue must be studied carefully using the oil-immersion lens of the light microscope in order to visualize the material at the highest possible magnification. This allows tissue examination at the highest magnification possible, a magnification of 1000 times.
Having retired from dermatologic practice a decade ago, I had done absolutely no microscopic work. Although I had studied various types of cancer related to dermatology, I had never had the opportunity to study prostate cancer, the leading cancer of men. I had previously reported on bacteria in various types of KS. Learning about the association of the KS virus and prostate cancer, I was determined to see if microbes could be identified in my partner's cancer, particularly because he had the rarest of cancers - the non-AIDS related classic form of KS seen in elderly Italian men .
For the first 15 minutes of study I searched the most cancerous area of the gland and found nothing. However once I searched the connective tissue areas (the stroma) adjacent to the main tumor mass, the bacteria were easily detected.

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Fig 6
Like bacteria observed in other forms of cancer, prostate cancer bacteria are primarily observed in the connective tissue stroma in tightly-packed clusters of round "coccoid" forms seemingly embedded in a matrix. These microbes can be seen, although with difficulty, by using the "high power" lens of the microscope, which magnifies 400 times (Figures 1 and 2). Using oil and the oil-immersion lens, which allows magnification up to 1000 times, the organisms are seen more clearly. The forms are primarily seen packed together in tight units in the connective tissue stroma (Figure 3). Sometimes a cell nucleus is clearly visible in the cluster (Figure 4). Rarely, one can see intracellular forms which suggest short rod-shaped bacterial forms, rather than the common round coccoid forms (Figure 5). Extracellular forms that escape from the tight bacterial clusters can be seen scattered in the connective tissue (Figure 6). Occasionally larger coccoid forms are seen that are three and four-times larger than the tiniest round forms. The largest round spore-like forms seen in Figure 6 are apparently what Russell observed as his "parasite of cancer."
The photos emphasize the varied size and shape of the pleomorphic microbial forms in the prostate, as well as the preference of the microbe for "collagen" - the "glue" protein that helps hold together the cells and tissues of the body. Could this affinity for collagen produce the biochemical change related to the elevated protein antigen detected by the PSA test for cancer? Particularly when antigens are often defined as foreign substances produced by bacteria and viruses.

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Cancer Microbes and human blood
Although doctors and blood suppliers would like the public to believe that transfused blood is "safe" and free from harmful infectious agents, in reality human blood is an aquarium filled with various known and unknown viruses and bacteria. Currently, healthy blood donors are screened for syphilis, hepatitis B and C, HIV-1 and 2, and HTLV-1 and 2. However, there is no routine screening for other known pathogenic viruses, such as transfusion transmitted virus (TTV), hepatitis G, the KS virus, parvo B 19 virus, and others.
It is now increasingly recognized that everyone's blood contains bacteria. Some of the species of blood bacteria (staphylococci, streptococci, corynebacteria) are similar to the kinds of bacteria found on the skin. However, these types of bacteria are also closely related, if not identical, to what are generally and loosely termed "cancer-associated bacteria", as reported by various investigators over the decades. Except for the bacteria that cause syphilis, "healthy" blood is not screened for any of these bacterial agents. Blood suppliers also ignore a host of tiny and difficult-to-culture "nanobacteria", which are newly-recognized normal constituents of the blood.
The origin of cancer microbes in cancer tissue may very well be derived from blood bacteria. The microbiology of cancer, although ignored by science, will ultimately have to be explored in relationship to the equally-ignored microbiology of human blood.
Cancer: One disease or many?
The cancer establishment believes that cancer is not one disease but many different diseases, each with their special risk factors, and each with their own special treatment. However, if bacteria turn out to be the cause, cancer may prove to be essentially one disease and not many different ones. For example, tuberculosis bacterial infection confined to the skin is a very different clinical disease from extensive tuberculosis infection of the lungs. Yet both diseases are the same because they are caused by the same agent- and they are treated with the same drugs.
Breast cancer and Kaposi's sarcoma are considered very different diseases. However, cancer bacteria have been reported in both diseases. Figures 7 shows the appearance of variably-sized intracellular coccoid forms in breast cancer (infiltrating ductal carcinoma), and Figure 8 shows the acid-fast stained appearance of Staphylococcus epidermidis cultured from the tumor when it metastasized to the skin. The size of some of the coccoid forms in the tumor is exactly the size and shape of the staphylococci bacteria cultured from the tumor. In addition, the presence of pink and red "acid-fast spicules" sprouting from coccoid bodies seen in the staphylococcus culture is most unusual. However, Livingston and Alexander ­Jackson showed exactly the same type of acid-fast spicule growth in culture from the urine of a cancer patient in their 1970 paper (their Figure 12A). This research regarding "a specific type of organism cultivated from malignancy" was presented at the New York Academy of Sciences in November 1969. These two women repeatedly claimed the cancer microbe was related to the acid-fast mycobacteria that cause tuberculosis - and that the acid-fast stain was the key to identifying this microbe.
Figure 9 shows coccoid forms within a skin lesion of KS in a patient near death from AIDS. Figure 10 shows the appearance of Streptococcus G cultured from his blood shortly before death. If one compares the size and shape of the blood streptococci, they appear similar in size and shape to the coccoid forms seen deep in the skin of a KS tumor .
Until the recent study associating the KS virus with prostate cancer, there was no relationship between KS and prostate cancer. Likewise, mammary gland breast cancer and prostate cancer (found exclusively in men) seemingly have nothing in common except they are the most common forms of cancer (other than skin cancer) in women and men. Both the mammary and the prostate glands are secretory glands that excrete externally, and both glands and both cancers are hormone-fueled. But the pleomorphic coccoid forms seen in both cancers are similar in appearance, suggesting that bacteria are involved in the production of both these "different" cancers.
If one studies the microbiology of cancer, it is apparent that cancer microbes provoke not only cancer, but also a variety of tissue responses, including fibrosis and thickening of the connective tissue (as in scleroderma), cellular infiltrations (as seen in autoimmune diseases), and the formation of tumors. The fact that similar-appearing bacteria can be identified in acid-fast stained tissue sections of so many different types of diseases makes them admittedly an unprecedented type of infectious agent.
Why does the medical establishment ignore cancer microbe research?
Despite a century of credible cancer microbe research, the medical profession generally ignores all aspects of research implicating bacteria in cancer. One exception is the 1982 discovery of certain bacteria in the stomach (Helicobacter pylori) that are now accepted as the cause of stomach ulcers that can sometimes progress to cancer and gastric lymphoma.
The most influential physician condemning cancer-associated bacteria was James Ewing, a noted American pathologist and author of the widely read textbook, Neoplastic Diseases (1919), in which he wrote that "few competent observers consider it (the parasitic theory) as a possible explanation in cancer." In Ewing's view, cancer did not act like an infection. Therefore, he reasoned microbes could not possibly cause cancer. As a result of his edict, few doctors dared to contradict Ewing by continuing cancer microbe research.
Ewing co-founded the American Cancer Society in 1913 and in the 1930's he was the director of Memorial Hospital, now better known as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, one of the most prestigious cancer hospitals in the world. Ewing died in 1943 from bladder cancer, at the age of 76.
Although bacteria were dismissed as causative agents one hundred years ago, viruses are now considered as likely causes of cancer - despite Ewing's contention that cancer did not act like an infectious disease. What the pathologist did not know is that pleomorphic cancer microbes have characteristics of both bacteria and viruses and were not visible with routine staining methods . Although physicians now easily accept the idea of microscopically invisible viruses in cancer, they seem unable to conceive of a microscopically visible bacterial agent in cancer.
Undoubtedly, the acceptance of cancer bacteria would put cancer research and treatment into a tailspin cancer chemotherapy and radiation would have to be reevaluated as a rational treatment for bacterial infection. Because current antibiotics cannot rid the body of cancer-causing bacteria, this would necessitate the development of new cancer treatments designed to minimize this infection.
It may be left to future medical historians to explain why cancer microbe research has been ignored for so many years, despite the millions of cancer deaths yearly and the billions spent on cancer research.
In the meantime, as a retired physician I will continue to bug (pun intended) my colleagues in medicine to search for acid-fast bacteria as I and other cancer microbe researchers in the past have done. The only requirements are an acid-fast stained histopathologic slide of the malignant tissue, a drop of oil, the use of the oil-immersion lens, a little patience, and an open mind.
To ignore cancer bacteria because a powerful pathologist once told his students a century ago that there were no microbes to be found in cancer is simply irrational and bad science. Re-search means to search again. After many decades of failure to uncover a cause for cancer, surely it is time for a second look at bacteria that can be easily found in this dread disease.
Legend for Photographs
Figure 1: Tissue section from prostate adenocarcinoma showing, in center, a cluster of tightly-packed intracellular blue-stained coccoid forms. Fite (acid-fast) stain, magnification x 400 ("high power").
Figure 2: Prostate cancer. In center, additional focus of intracellular blue-stained coccoid forms. Fite stain, magnification x 400 ("high power").
Figure 3. Prostate cancer. Tightly-packed cluster of blue and pink-stained coccoid forms in the connective tissue stroma. Fite stain, magnification x 1000 (highest magnification), in oil.
Figure 4. Prostate cancer. Loosely-packed intracellular blue-stained coccoid forms. Fite stain, magnification x1000, in oil.
Figure 5. Prostate cancer. Rare cluster of loosely-packed intracellular and extracellular coccoid and tiny rod-shaped forms. Fite stain, magnification x1000, in oil.
Figure 6. Prostate cancer. On right, a cluster of larger coccoid forms. On left, scattered larger extracellular coccoid forms in the connective tissue stroma.
These forms could be compatible with "Russell bodies" - which Russell believed were "the characteristic organism of cancer." Fite stain, magnification x1000, in oil.
Figure 7. Breast cancer. In center, intracellular, tightly-packed variably-sized coccoid forms. Kinyoun's (acid-fast) stain. magnification x 1000, in oil.
Figure 8. Smear from culture of Staphylococcus epidermidis isolated from skin metastasis of original breast cancer shown in Figure 7. In addition to myriads of staphylococci, there are 5 areas of deep blue-stained granules from which emanate acid-fast pink and red spicules. According to Livingston, this is a characteristic of bacteria isolated from cancer. Note the similar size and shape of the cocci to the coccoid forms seen in the original tumor in Fugure 7. Ziehl-Nielson (acid-fast) stain, magnification x 1000, in oil.
Figure 9. AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma of the skin. Several clusters of blue-stained coccoid forms in the deep dermis of the skin. Fite stain, magnification x 1000, in oil.
Figure 10. Streptococcus G isolated from the blood of a fatal case of AIDS and AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. The size and shape of the streptococci are similar in size and shape to the coccoid forms seen in the KS lesion shortly before death. Ziehl-Nielson (acid-fast) stain, magnification x1000, in oil.
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Acknowledgement: Microscopist James D. Solliday of Santa Ana, CA, performed the microphotography on the prostate tissue sections.



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