Friday, October 17, 2014

The arginine libel

In a Page One story about turtle tumors in The Maui News the other day, UH researchers blamed arginine in the seaweed the turtles eat.

I am skeptical. But one statement in the story was, too typically of greeniacs, just backwards:

Hannah Bernard, president of Hawai'i Wildlife Fund based on Maui, said that arginine is an immunosuppressive and promotes viral growth.
"It is a double whammy," said Bernard, noting that the tumors are caused by fibropapillomatosis, a disease associated with the herpes virus. "Their diet is promoting the growth of the tumors and suppressing their immune system."
Where do they get this stuff? The people, I mean, not the turtles. Pretty much the reverse is believed to be the case. Supplemental arginine may help in wound recovery and some other conditions.

It would be a big surprise to learn that arginine, an amino acid that people make in their bodies, was an immunosuppressor, for us or turtles. Odd things happen in animal metabolism but immunosuppression by one of the commoner amino acids would be hard to explain in evolutionary terms.

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