It is alarming to find a popular medical doctor on the Internet who claims that appendicitis—a common inflammation of the appendix which can lead to sepsis and death—is no big deal. According to him, it’s simply constipation, which can be relieved by enema. He says it so calmly, though, that you may be inclined to believe him.
This doctor is Andrew Kaufman, based in Syracuse, New York. In the middle of a global health pandemic, he has become a prominent voice in the COVID denialism movement online. Many of his lengthy commentaries on YouTube have received hundreds of thousands of views. If you have heard that the coronavirus is not real, that scientists are actually detecting “exosomes,” you are familiar with Kaufman’s theory. His turn away from medicine seems to have been triggered in part by reading the book A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan, a psychiatrist turned virus denier and Goop contributor. Kaufman regularly takes to YouTube to answer specific medical questions from viewers and provides them with “information” that runs counter to basic knowledge of the human body, endorsing bone broths and detox protocols for a variety of ailments. He is not a naturopath; he is a psychiatrist with an active medical license in his state.
Illuminating fringe claims can poison the public discourse, but Kaufman is popular enough that addressing his main theory is necessary. And his even-tempered warnings about a “globalist agenda” and a “manufactured crisis” that has led to “coercion” feed the playbook of COVID-19 conspiracy theorists.
The myth that the virus isn’t there
Sounding composed and knowledgeable, Kaufman repeatedly tells his viewers that viruses are not a cause of human diseases. Through watching hours and hours of video, I have seen him deny the existence of the viruses behind the common cold, polio, HIV-AIDS, viral hepatitis, chickenpox, COVID-19, and measles. One of his favourite examples for why his war against germ theory is justified is the case of Stefan Lanka, which he sells to his audience as “the Supreme Court of Germany actually ruled that there is no measles virus that’s been proved to exist” (from his interview with London Real, time code 1:04:00). The truth is that Lanka issued a challenge: he wanted a single scientific paper that, on its own, proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the virus existed. When a doctor named David Bardens produced six papers that together met the burden of proof, Lanka refused to pay and the Court recognized that Lanka was free to set the rules as he saw fit because this was an award and he could give it to whomever. The measles virus is very real: Lanka’s public challenge was, in my opinion, a no-win scenario to give credence to his virus denialism.
Dr. Andrew Kaufman rose to fame in the early days of the pandemic by claiming that what scientists were actually seeing with their electron microscopes was not a new coronavirus but rather exosomes. This story is quite interesting as it reveals a common tactic Kaufman uses. In building a bridge between an observation and a conclusion he likes, he will often use valid science to lay down a number of planks. When that bridge is almost complete, he runs out of planks and takes a leap of faith, but that leap may only be noticeable by an expert. Going back to exosomes, most of what Kaufman says is true. Our body is made of cells, and you can imagine a cell like a soap bubble. An exosome is a tiny bubble that buds off from that soap bubble and starts floating around, maybe eventually fusing with another soap bubble.
These exosomes can carry payloads, like genetic material, and act as transporters inside our body, and they do look an awful lot like many viruses. In fact, sometimes a virus will infect a cell and an exosome containing the virus’ genetic material will bud off and go on to infect another cell, just like a viral particle would! But here we reach the end of our bridge. Two scientific experts discussed this issue in a YouTube video and concluded that “clearly, there are similarities between exosomes and the coronavirus but they are absolutely different in many aspects.” Kaufman takes a leap and claims the virus does not exist. It’s all exosomes.
In fact, Kaufman loves to mention that doctors who claim to have found an infectious virus have never been able to fulfill Koch’s hallowed postulates. A brief history lesson is warranted. Microbiologist Robert Koch stated during the Victorian era (just before we even really knew what DNA and viruses were) that to prove that a microbe caused disease, you needed to isolate it from living things with the disease and not find it in living things without the disease. And if you took it from a living thing that had it and gave it to a living thing that did not, it should produce disease and you should be able to then isolate this microbe within it. So if scientists have not done this with a particular virus, it gives license to people like Kaufman to claim that we just don’t know.
The problem is that Koch himself realized that requiring his postulates to be fulfilled each and every time was mistaken. He noticed people who were carriers of typhoid fever and of cholera who did not have symptoms. They had the infectious agent but not the disease. Was it proof these microbes did not after all cause the disease? No. Koch’s postulates are historically interesting, but they have essentially been supplanted by guidelines based on the detection of DNA or RNA from the microbe itself.
For those who want to delve deeper into “Where Kaufman thinks the coronavirus’ genetic code comes from“, click here
This little paragraph here is for people who understand molecular biology and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), as it would take too long to spell out to non-experts where Kaufman goes wrong when he explains away those hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 detection tests and the sequencing of multiple variants of the virus. Of course, if the virus does not exist, as Kaufman claims, what genetic material are we detecting? What are those roughly 30,000 “letters” scientists are calling the SARS-CoV-2 genome? Kaufman suggests they’re just random sequences found in the human genome. His argument? “Some of the probes used are only 20 to 26 basepairs long. So if you think about it, if we have a stretch of 3 billion basepairs, I think that somewhere in there, you’re gonna find every single combination of 26 basepairs. It’s impossible for it not to be there.” Of course, what Kaufman does not seem to know is that there is not only a forward primer (which he mistakenly refers to as a “probe”) but a reverse primer as well. The two primers need to be close enough to amplify what’s in between them. A good illustration of this can be found in this video animation. Besides, any sequence that matches the human genome (which is very well known) is removed in the analysis when sequencing the virus’ genome. When researchers compared the human genome to the SARS-CoV-2 genome, they did find one match: a 117-basepair stretch that is present in both. That is it. It’s safe to say that when scientists the world over, often using different pairs of primers specific to the coronavirus, amplify the virus’ genetic material, they are not mistakenly picking up random human sequences.
From MD to ND
Dr. Andrew Kaufman is, in my opinion, a naturopath now. He charges USD 750 for a natural health consultation (and $1,750 for the premium package). He has stated that technological advances in medicine are only superior to natural methods “if your bone is sticking out of your skin”; that it’s wrong to be synthesizing drugs; and that we should simply rely on natural molecules whose safety, he claims, is known. And like naturopaths, Kaufman sees toxins everywhere. He thinks we get them from clothes, shampoo and the food supply. Urinary tract infections, he believes, can be caused by toxins in the rectum that “translocate” to the urinary system. So naturally, he recommends “cleansings” to many people writing in with questions. These mysterious toxins and our rituals to purify ourselves from them remind me of the demons and exorcisms of old, and if you think that’s a stretch, Kaufman, a psychiatrist who has done work in the criminal justice system in the past, thinks “demon possession may actually be a factor in some mental illness” like schizophrenia. Many of the comments on his live streams display a strong religious fervour—“Yes demons are for real” and “Just walk with Christ and you are save [sic] even if they kill you!”—so much so that you would think you were watching the world’s most unflappable preacher.
But Kaufman is not content to embrace naturopathy and deny the existence of germs: he has to imply that this pandemic just doesn’t add up. He has called lockdowns a form of “house arrest” and “martial law”, taking away people’s right to assemble and right to religion. He has claimed (erroneously) that vaccines are “syringes full of poison” and that masks simultaneously have pores too big to block the “virus” (whatever that means for him) but small enough to significantly reduce your oxygen supply, which makes no scientific sense. He rhetorically asks the question, “Who wears masks?”, but does not answer it with “doctors, dentists, nurses.” “People who are hiding something,” he says, “people who are being dishonest, people who are thieves.” He lost his remaining part-time doctor job recently for refusing to wear a mask and has since been leading a group of unmasked people into local businesses to make a stand.
He worries this “manufactured crisis” has a goal, which is to make people reliant on government handouts, a common conspiracist belief of the “freedom” reactionaries. To put icing on this martyrdom cake, he has tied Bill Gates to the eugenics movement and was featured on London Real, a video channel making millions of dollars promoting self-help and conspiracy theories, thanks to former guest David Icke, who believes reptilian alien-human hybrids secretly run the world. Kaufman thought this interview was such a treat, he wore a suit and tie for it.
COVID denialism, belief in detox regimens, libertarian calls to protect individual freedoms, all of these tropes are being stitched together into a Frankenstein’s monster by unscientific people like Dr. Andrew Kaufman. Where might it end? Sounding calm, collected, and ominous, Kaufman promises that “if we get to [the point where soldiers are holding you down to vaccinate you], I promise that I will give out a ‘recipe’ that can mitigate things for people that are held down by force and vaccinated.”
This Andy Kaufman is no joke.
- Dr. Andrew Kaufman, a psychiatrist essentially turned naturopath, has become very popular on YouTube for denying the existence of the coronavirus
- He claims the coronavirus is instead an exosome, a natural transport vehicle made by our cells, and while exosomes do have some similarities to viruses, there is undeniable evidence that the coronavirus exists
- Dr. Kaufman is part of a conspiracy movement that believes the pandemic is being manufactured to take away people’s rights, and his calm and confident demeanour can appear very convincing even when he makes outrageous claims like that appendicitis is simply constipation