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Extreme Antibiotics as Infertility Treatment?
a blog by Suzanne Rico, June 12, 2012
Last month, Elle carried a story about Atilla Toth, a fertility doctor in New York who is using a controversial regimen of antibiotics to treat infertility. I’m not talking about a couple of horse pills taken for 10 days; I’m talking about months of IV antibiotics, antibiotics shot through a catheter into the cervix, and another antibiotic paste inserted into the uterus. And that’s just for the female half of the equation. The males? Well, the men suffer too. “Meanwhile,” writes Elle’s Sarah Elizabeth Richards of one woman she profiled, “every other day Toth gave her husband a painkiller and then injected antibiotics through his rectum and into his prostate; twice Toth also injected his seminal vesicles.” Yeeeeeeeowch!
Toth’s theory behind his antibiotic therapy is interesting. He believes many people have chlamydia, a bacterium that has been linked to recurrent miscarriage, premature labor, ectopic pregnancy, and pelvic inflammatory disease, without knowing it. He insists that up to a third of unexplained infertility could be caused by chlamydia. Hmmmm … my infertility was always unexplained.
Toth got his idea for treating infertility with hard core antibiotics in the 1970s from Secretariat — yes, the Kentucky Derby winning horse — after reading that Secretariat’s breeder had upped his stud successes by flushing the uteruses of the brood mares to eradicate microbacteria. Baby horses, apparently, abounded.
Atilla Toth sees about 150 couples a year with infertility, leading me to wonder, might I have tried his unorthodox medicine had I known about it back in 2006? So desperate was I to figure out the cause of my problem and attack it, the honest answer is I might have spent a year in a yurt if someone had told me that would help. But many doctors advise caution — extreme caution. Huntington Reproductive Center’s John Wilcox, M.D., is one of them.
“Infertility treatment is extremely complex,” Dr. Wilcox told me. “Infection definitely plays a role in unexplained infertility. but I believe it is unreasonable to suggest all patients benefit from eight weeks of antibiotics and observation. Dr. Toth’s approach to treating patients is unorthodox, and I am concerned patients may experience unnecessary complications from the regimen detailed in Elle magazine. Standard of care demands a more comprehensive approach to manage unexplained infertility patients.”
But those couples leaving Dr. Toth’s care with a baby in their arms say the long, rigorous, painful course of extreme antibiotics is worth it.