The Berkeley Pit, Butte MT

Paraphrasing an old song title, “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,” two University of Montana chemists, Andrea A. Stierle and Donald B. Stierle, have been looking for useful compounds in what many might consider the wrong place—the Berkley Pit—an open pit copper mine in Butte, Montana that was closed years ago. It is one of the most toxic waste sites in the U.S., 1.5 miles east/west and one mile north/south in diameter. The pit is 1,780 feet deep, with very acidic water that continues drain into the pit at a rate measured in 2005 of 2.55 million gallons per day. This water is contaminated with all sorts of toxic chemicals such as arsenic, copper, cadmium, cobalt, iron, manganese, zinc, and sulfate, plus other inorganic substances.


Nevertheless, some fungi and bacteria have found a happy medium (chemically-speaking) in the Berkley Pit waters. The Montana U. scientists have been analyzing the unusual products from these living creatures for more than 20 years. Among other discoveries is a cancer-killing fungus called Taxomyces andreanae and some other substances that can produce organic chemicals capable of affecting inflammatory and aging qualities.


In one case, the Stierle’s cultured two types of Penicillin fungus found in the waters and found a completely new substance produced by the culture,

Berkeleylactone A

, (research published in J. Nat. Prod. 2017, DOI:


v) with antibiotic capabilities of treating some strains of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), previously believed to be resistant to most antibiotics, plus anthrax, strep throat and candida yeast infections.


Given the glacial slowness of FDA approval (unless spurred on by major pharmaceutical interests), it could be years before substances like this from hazardous waste sites become available as new miracle drug, but it is interesting that even in the deadliest environments on Earth, some benefits can be found.


 Publications of Interest


In what sounds like a worthy follow-up to Dr. Jerome Groopman’s classic

How Doctors Think

¸ Dr. Danielle Ofri has published an interesting title:

What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear

. As described in a lengthy review in the British medical journal, Lancet, this book has some useful information for patients:


“For all the sophisticated diagnostic tools of modern medicine, the conversation between doctor and patient remains the primary diagnostic tool.” This idea lies at the heart of Danielle Ofri’s new book What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear, in which she acknowledges, dissects, experiments with, and analyses the complexities and miscues of the patient–doctor exchange.”


Hospital Dangers Changing Direction

This blog, begun in February 2011 and based originally on some on unhappy personal experiences in a hospital seems to have run out of steam. This might be obvious from the past months’ dearth of posts. However, there are still plenty of topics to write about in the healthcare field, particularly as changes take place in insurance coverage and in new ways of thinking about treating consumers’ ills.


Therefore, Hospital Dangerswill be morphing into a different content area. I intend to explore and report upon the latest research and opportunities in healthcare that have not necessarily been approved of or adopted by the medical/pharmaceutical establishment. Some of this information even may have been published in medical journals. However, the time difference between research appearing in this form and being accepted or adopted by practicing physicians can be both lengthy and costly in terms of their patient’s health. A  considerable body of research in this area is published in foreign journals, which while indexed by the National Library of Medicine’s databases, may not be readily available to practicing physicians.


Sometimes, big Pharma is ahead of traditional medical practitioners in accepting treatments derived from naturopathic practices. This is evidenced by pharmaceutical companies when they try to develop derivatives or combinations of natural substances used for years into patentable medicines to increase their profits. 


One example is of this practice is Red Yeast Rice, known for many years to lower cholesterol safely without the potential side effects found in prescription strength statin drugs. Years ago, a few drug manufacturers filed patents on special formulations of Red Yeast Rice even though they didn’t necessarily proceed to complete the extensive testing needed to obtain FDA approval. At the same time drug company-funded studies continued to report on doubtful benefits of Red Yeast Rice. Only recently are reputable studies appearing in the literature showing that the precursor of the statin drug, lovastatin, found in Red Yeast Rice can be just as effective without dangerous side effects found in the prescription version of lovastatin and other statin drugs.


CAUTION: Nothing that you may read about substances mentioned in this blog is intended to be nor should it be taken as medical advice or specific recommendations. The information presented here is solely intended as medical information. It is based on published research available on the Internet.


Finally, given the different focus the Hospital Dangers blog will have a new name. This will be announced in the next post. It will still be under the current blog title to give current subscribers and followers time to adjust their subscription should they be interested in continuing to follow the blog.


New Blog Launch: “Mushrooms and Your Health.”




Did you know that mushrooms have an incredible amount of nutrients that can support healthy functioning in a number of areas? Mushrooms may prevent age related memory loss, have anticancer benefits, reduce cholesterol, protect the liver and kidneys, strengthen your immune system, decrease the risk of diabetes, help control blood pressure and improve digestion. As reported in an article in the journal Molecules(July 20, 2016, 21:7), “Studies show that mushroomspossess various bioactivities, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, immunomodulatory, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, and antidiabetic properties . . ..”  

 A similar study in the same journal (October 27, 2015: 20 (10): 19489- 525), reported “Edible mushrooms might be used directly in enhancement of antioxidant defenses through dietary supplementation to reduce the level of oxidative stress.”

The full range of health benefits from several types of mushrooms is described and evaluated in an article titled “Chemistry, Nutrition, and Health-Promoting Properties of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia and Their Bioactive Compounds.” This was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, (Aug 19, 2015, 53(32):7108-23). The author, M. Friedman, said this: “The reported health-promoting properties of the mushroom fruit bodies, mycelia, and bioactive pure compounds include antibiotic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, antifatigue, antihypertensive, antihyperlipodemic, antisenescence, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, and neuroprotective properties and improvement of anxiety, cognitive function, and depression.”

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a helpful Web page listing Nutrient Content and Nutrient Retentionn of selected mushrooms.