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The New Zealand Herald published today (November 17, 2012) reports that John McAfee, the anti-virus creator, claimed "to have founded an alternative medicine company using local plants to make a natural alternative to antibiotics, and a herbal version of Viagra for women."

I'm skeptical of this claim, so I wonder if there are facts to prove it.

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Founding a company is easy. Actually making a product and selling it is the harder part. Especially in the herbal alternative market –  Chad Nov 16 '12 at 20:47
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Carlo: Can you please clarify which of these statements you are skeptical of: 1) McAfee created a company. 2) The company produces products from local plants. 3) The products act as antibiotics and aphrodisiacs. 4) The company is a drug-front. –  Oddthinking Nov 17 '12 at 1:56
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Reverting to the original. It is unacceptable to invalidate answers by changing the question. –  Sklivvz Nov 17 '12 at 22:49
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@odd, the current version is a valid one. The OP specifically stated he's skeptical of the quoted passage and confirmed that in the comments. It is perfectly clear that Carlo was not interested in the drug angle originally, as he didn't mention it at all. I suspect that after seeing my answer confirming the claim his reaction was to shift/extend the skepticism to something else. At that point another question would have been appropriate. This is not a waste of Internet space because it explicitly clarified a doubt of the OP, and hopefully it will help others. –  Sklivvz Nov 17 '12 at 23:22
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The antibiotic research seems to have been terminated around 2010, when his main scientist left. This is an interesting read: gizmodo.com/5958877/… –  Doug Kavendek Nov 18 '12 at 17:52

1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Yes, that seems to be substantially true:

Dr. John McAfee - President & CEO - the founder of McAfee Anti-virus, Tribal Voice, and several other ventures, founded QuorumEx in order to re-invent the way modern medicine combats and disarms pathogenic bacteria. Through his efforts, Quorumex has identified numerous new plant compounds that inhibit qs signaling and provide promise for new anti-quorum sensing medicines.

Quorumex: About Us

While it's a relatively fringe topic for healing purposes, quorum sensing is accepted and being actively studied in mainstream biology.

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Though I’d like to add that the biological term “quorum sensing” makes little sense in this context. It sounds more like a buzzword. –  Konrad Rudolph Nov 18 '12 at 10:33
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@KonradRudolph Some pathogenic bacteria only start releasing some toxins once they reach a certain quantity. They use quorum sensing to determine whether there are enough bacteria to release their toxins. The idea seems to use some medicine to fool the bacteria into not releasing toxins by disturbing their quorum sensing. I don't know whether the approach works, but I see no principle reason why it shouldn't be possible to use this mechanism to fight disease. –  Christian Nov 18 '12 at 17:28
    
@Christian Ah, that makes actually sense in principle. But to be honest, that seems to be a very limited field of application. Few bacteria release toxins on a quorum basis (and why would they? They generally have no reason to evolve this complex mechanism). –  Konrad Rudolph Nov 18 '12 at 17:40
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@Konrad The theory is: If there is only a small amount of bacteria and they release their toxins, the immune system get's triggered in a way that isn't good for the bacteria. Is there are enough bacteria the toxins that the bacteria release weaken the body and therefore the immune system. There a TED talk in which the claim get's made by Bonnie Bassler who's a professor at Princton: youtube.com/watch?v=TVfmUfr8VPA –  Christian Nov 18 '12 at 18:05
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@KonradRudolph do you know of research that shows that the majority of pathogenic bacteria releases their toxins without quorum sensing? I'm not sure whether we know how much of a role it plays in total. It would be interesting to have a clinical trial of whether you get a benefitial effect of messing with quorum sensing through the Topic-QX product that McAfee sells. Without any empiric evidence I don't think we can say whether it works. –  Christian Nov 18 '12 at 18:37

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