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What is Ultraviolet Blood Irradiation?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ultraviolet blood irradiation is also called UVBI or UBI. It is a treatment that has some proven uses, but also may be considered a fringe or experimental procedure when it is recommended for other than approved circumstances. It has, for instance, been advocated as potentially beneficial to strengthening the immune system and warding off illnesses like common colds, but organizations like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggest its main benefits lie in treating certain kinds of lymphoma that affect the skin (T-cell lymphoma). It may also be useful in treating serious skin conditions like psoriasis.

One thing people should know about ultraviolet blood irradiation is that this treatment isn’t new. It was created by Emmet Knott in the 1920s, and it was initially thought to be a treatment that could prevent infection, especially in post operative patients. As antibiotics were developed and grew in popularity, infection prevention with ultraviolet blood irradiation became far less common. However, it did begin to be explored for additional other uses, and those that the FDA has thus far approved were eventually uncovered.

When ultraviolet blood irradiation is used, some blood is removed from the body after a medicine is used that makes the blood respond more to light. Only the blood’s white cells get treated with light, which is thought to shut down their processes. Blood is then returned to the body, and the now light inactivated cells may help calm inflammatory response.

Though UVBI is tested and considered safe, it is not something available to all people, particularly for investigatory and unproven uses. Many insurance companies will pay for ultraviolet blood irradiation when used in accordance with FDA recommendations. Those same insurance companies are unlikely to pay for this procedure when use of it is unproven, and there are now numerous conditions for which its use is advocated, mostly without proof that such use is appropriate. It is recommended for many autoimmune diseases, for recurrent infections (viral or bacterial), for recovery of diseases like mono, and to treat bacteria resistant infections. In some cases medical workers may recommend UVBI simply to sustain health.

It’s interesting that there exists a definite schism in the medical or alternative medical community about UVBI. Some fully support its use and others who are either complementary or alternative physicians are equally aligned against ascribing all kinds of benefits to UVBI that it may simply not possess. Noted complementary physician Dr. Andrew Weil for instance strongly states that ultraviolet blood irradiation is only appropriate for investigatory (research-based) or approved uses.

That being said, there is little evidence the procedure is harmful except possibly to the finances. Those who are interested in having UVBI must each make their own decision. It’s advisable though to make this decision on research available. Given this procedure is by no means new, research is not hard to find.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon942672 — On Mar 28, 2014

FDA-approved means the device is safe for use and does not imply efficacy. The science supporting this technique is quite simply awful. Historically, UV-blood techniques have been peddled largely by quacks and frauds. This approach at best a distraction from real medicine and science and at worst a money making scheme and a risk for patients.

By uvblood — On Jan 10, 2010

A UBI system has been developed and is currently under FDA authorized clinical trials for HIV. Two previous human trials were performed on HCV. The HemoModulator has been proven safe through both animal and human trials. All design and testing is performed here in the USA.

By anon41161 — On Aug 13, 2009

It would be helpful for the consumer to know the date of your information on UBI.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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