Missionary Health

A Virus killing cancer cells

Every cancer cell was dead. Examining the tissue culture dish in his Penn State lab in 2008, BYU alumnus Craig M. Meyers (BS ’82, MS ’84) wasn’t sure what had happened. Seven days earlier those same cells had been alive and well. Meyers had directed an assistant to introduce a special virus (called adeno-associated virus type 2 [AAV2]) into the cell lines of cancerous human papillomavirus (HPV) cells and leave it all in an incubator. Now to see them all dead, he suspected they’d made a mistake.

“Our first thought was . . . that there was something wrong with the incubator,” says Meyers, a Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Penn State College of Medicine. “So we repeated [the test] multiple times, and it happened every time with multiple incubators.”

Since working on a microbiology PhD at UCLA nearly 30 years ago, Meyers has been on the front lines in the ongoing battle against HPV. This sexually transmitted virus leads to the growth of warts on various parts of the body and can result in several cancers, including cervical cancer.

Finding a virus that killed cancerous HPV cells was remarkable because, unlike HPV, there is little known about the AAV2 virus. There had been no crucial need for AAV2 research because, while the virus does infect humans, it has no known negative effect on the human body. However, in that tissue culture dish in 2008, Meyers discovered that AAV2 was somehow causing the HPV cancer cells to kill themselves.

Read the full story at BYU Magazine.

Avoid getting sick as an LDS Missionary
image credit: CTR Vital

No matter how righteous missionaries are, they still get sick sometimes.  It’s almost statistically impossible not to get sick as a missionary. And getting sick takes time away from the work of the Lord.  No missionary likes to be sick or to have an ill companion. but sometimes, it just happens.

Most Common Sicknesses

The three most common diseases-by-contact for missionaries are colds, flu and norovirus.  All three of these are passed from person to person by microparticles which are carried in microdroplets and passed from person.  While any of these can be airborne, it is pretty uncommon to get sufficient amounts of these microparticles just by being in the room with an infected person.
The biggest culprit?  Hands and surfaces.  You can catch these by using the same utensils, doorknobs, handkerchiefs and bathrooms as infected people.  Missionaries shake lots of hands, every day! 

How Many Hands do Missionaries Shake?

If an elder shakes hands with 20 people per day (on average) and has a 23 months in the mission field (after their time in the MTC), they have shaken hands with 13,800 people by the time their mission ends. For sisters thats 10,200! That’s a lot of hands! We don’t want to make moms nervous or anyone nervous for that matter, but there are things you can do to make sure you are keeping yourself healthy during your mission.

So let’s review the communicable illnesses, individually:
Of the three of these nasty bugs, colds are almost completely passed around by contact with your nose.  Dozens of tests shown that it is not contact with your hands or lips so much, but your own contact between infected hands and your nose that causes you to catch a cold.  Cold viruses are most commonly found on places where the hands of others have been (like doorknobs, food utensils and handshakes).   When they get passed to you and you then wipe your nose, you have transferred the virus to yourself.  You can transfer it to others when you sneeze anywhere but into a tissue or the crook of your elbow.

Flu tends to be seasonal, and there is a yearly vaccine that you can take if you are the type who is susceptible to this disease.  As with colds, be careful about where your lips have been (utensils, pens, hands, washcloths) as these can easily harbor the virus until being picked up by the next person.

Norovirus is usually the worst of the three, as it involves upset stomach, fever, diarrhea and perhaps vomiting.  Norovirus is a nasty, infectious gastrointestinal disorder that affects more than 20 million people in the US alone, and causes more than 50,000 per year to be hospitalized.  Many people who pick up this illness contract it from caring for those who already have it.

All three of these communicable diseases put an extra emphasis on the cleanliness of your hands, utensils, surfaces and clothing.  proper washing for them all is important!

There are four basic ways to avoid getting sick on your mission.  We suggest all four.

1) Wash your hands no less than twice a day.  You can use hand sanitizer, (we recommend PureBioguard) on your hands, regularly and specifically after doing dishes and before eating.

2) Wash your dishes with sufficient soap or detergent, in the hottest water that you can get!

When washing by hand, allow your dishes to air-dry in a dish-holder that can drain back into your sink.  Don’t towel-dry your dishes, as this can pass germs from one germ-carrying item to the towel, and then to the rest.

3) Practice healthy eating and hygiene habits, and take a multi-vitamin, a digestive aid (like CTR Vital).  Wash your market foods, especially fruits and vegetables.  Shower and change your socks.  Have (at least) two pairs of shoes, and swap them out daily so they can breathe.  If they get wet, dry them out between use.

4) Pray, and follow the Spirit.  Missionaries who pray specifically for their health on their missions will be blessed by the Lord. And though health is not directly correlated to righteousness, there are powerful promises in the scriptures about how magnifying our callings as missionaries will help restore our bodies (see D&C 84:33).


This article is informational as well as promotional. We are partnered with both PureBioguard and CTR Vital because they have been found to work really well and have been recommended to us be dozens of people from missions around the world.  If you haven’t read the story of Michaela Proctor avoiding getting sick on her mission in Africa by taking CTR Vital, read it now
PureBioguard is a hand-spray that looks like hand sanitizer but contains no alcohol.  What it does contain is an aloe-feeling agent that chemically bonds with your skin (or other surfaces) and blocks germs for up to twelve hours. Or about 25 times as long as hand sanitizer.  It also works great on your feet, for preventing athlete’s foot and other foot-related infections. These are all recommendations from missionaries that have used it. 

Stay healthy on your mission - Michaela Proctor Zambia Lusaka Mission
Michaela Proctor served in the Zambia Lusaka Mission from June 2014 - December 2015.

My eyes were too eager as I opened my mission call. No matter how earnestly I tried to read line by line, I couldn’t help but read ahead to see the words “Zambia Lusaka Mission”. I could hardly squeak the words out with all of my emotions, but behind the immediate joy, I felt a little scared. Throughout high school, I had traveled to Africa a couple of times, and though two weeks there were life changing, I was apprehensive with the thought of living there for 18 months. What kinds of sicknesses and physical hardships would accompany the already strenuous work of daily preaching the gospel?

Packing was quite the feat, trying to fit 18 months worth of supplies I would not be able to find in Zambia and Malawi. My parents included in the supplies 18 months worth of the capsules that they had personally used for several years. I had tried it once or twice before in liquid form and felt my body respond well to it. Though my luggage weight capacity was limited, I felt that bringing those capsules would ease my fears of sickness.  Looking back, it’s hard to believe that something so small inside my suitcase could, and would, play such a big part in my mission.

Within the first couple of weeks in the field, I saw just how often I could potentially eat or drink things that were not very clean. Despite our best efforts, we could never carry enough water from our apartment to last us the entire day of walking, so we inevitably had to ask people for water. While our apartment had a filter on its tap, most of the people we got water from took it from wells in their backyards. Often times it was slightly brown, but when we were totally parched and it was between 90 and 100 degrees, we didn’t have much of a choice.

Crazy Missionary food in Africa
Michaela eating a caterpillar as part of a meal.

Through these days of drinking this water, I faithfully took the capsules, and the miraculous thing was that when others got sick, I never had one day when I needed to stay in sick. I seemed to be preserved.

Others were not so preserved, however. One sister struggled with constipation her entire mission while my last three companions always felt bloated, constipated, or had diarrhea almost the entire time we were together.

Often times when I was ready to go they took extra time because they weren’t feeling well, or we had to stay in for part or all of the day for them to rest. Most of the time these sisters would want to soldier on and push through the pain during the day, but this often led to lost time in transition and extra time for lunch breaks.

Our mission president’s wife was always very aware of the missionaries’ health. As I was a sister training leader most of my mission, I was called upon more than once to take a sister to the hospital that was having stomach issues (whether this was from the water, food or previous health problems I am not sure).

Unless there was a serious issue, we were usually told to just avoid the water and street food and go on the BRATs diet where you only eat bananas, rice, apples, and toast. Stomach or intestinal discomfort was practically commonplace.

LDS Missionary in Africa Zambia

At one point near the end of my mission I got a little lazy in taking the capsules and started feeling bloated all the time. I remember lying on the floor of my apartment with my companion during a lunch break and trying to find a comfortable position to relieve the pain. Soon after this I began taking the capsules again and this bloating went away. We often joked about our “food babies” and how big our stomachs would get when this bloating occurred.

We may have laughed, but it was really uncomfortable and sometimes took away from our focus.

One particular month during rainy season, flooding buried the city’s water pipes in sludge, preventing any running water from getting to the towns we were serving in. Our zone leaders scrambled everyday to provide water for the missionaries, but many times we were left having to collect rainwater that poured from our roof. As we walked the muddy streets and saw many houses with collapsed roofs or walls saturated with water, we saw mothers and young girls walking with buckets trying to find any source of clean water for drinking, cooking, and washing. The irony was that in such a torrential flood, there was no water to be found.

Again, my companion and I could not carry enough water to last us the whole day. Though we were warned of cholera and we did our best to avoid drinking the water, sometimes we had no other alternative. It was jarring to see such tragedy all around me. Families were desperate. I often wondered as I sat in people’s houses if the rains would make their walls collapse, too. With so much sickness and fear around me, my body still remained healthy.

Watching others get sick around me was a difficult part of my mission. The mission is a time where everything familiar is stripped away and you are left to rely solely on the Lord. It is vulnerable and can be extremely discouraging at times. Discouragement and stress only made these stomach issues worse.

Those little green capsules made all the difference on a daily basis as I preached the gospel in Zambia and Malawi.

When I had so many opportunities to be sick and stay home, I was healthy and strong and could continue to serve and teach. Many missionaries came home and continued to face stomach and intestinal issues, including diarrhea and constipation, but the only residual effect I’ve felt from my mission was an increased desire to use my health and strength to build the Kingdom.

Michaela’s “little green capsules” are called CTR Vital. If you would like to try them for your missionary, click here.

Learn more about Michaela’s missionary experiences on her missionary blog: http://sistermichaelaproctor.blogspot.com/

Editor’s note: this article is a sponsored post paid for by CTR Vital. And although this article is sponsored, Michaela’s story is very real, which is why we decided to publish it so that other missionaries can also benefit from this kind of health during their missions to obscure areas of the world. 

Also, check out this FREE Missionary Health Guide!

hand sanitizer for missionaries

It’s currently used in operating rooms, nursing homes, schools, “clean” laboratory rooms, doctors’ offices, and other places where the amount of germs in an environment must be kept to a minimum.  Now it’s available in a convenient form for LDS missionaries to use, worldwide.

“A number of LDS missions have called us up and have ordered PureBioguardTM in bulk,” says Dr. Tadmor Asaaf, Director of Innovation for PureBiologixTM.  “Many missions, particularly those in regions that are prone to flu outbreaks or have limited sanitation, have tried it and wholeheartedly approve of it.  One mission reported that their number of missionary sick days has dropped by almost 80% when they instituted the use of this product mission-wide.

PureBioguardTM is a small spray-bottle of hand sanitizer– or so I thought when I opened the package.  But when I micro-sprayed it on, I noticed that it felt like more like lotion and smelled pleasant, not a thing like alcohol-based sanitizer.

The company has spent more than twenty years developing this product for ultra-clean surfaces.  Their aim was to overcome the limitations of alcohol, which evaporates quickly.  The bottle’s instructions say to rub it all over your hands until dry.  The difference:  this stuff isn’t evaporating, it’s actually bonding with the outermost layer of your skin.

It creates a long-lasting barrier to germs and it can last up to 20x as long as traditional sanitizer, because it’s not alcohol based.

The micro-spray is also exact.  You use less, because you can spray it exactly where you want to.

Best Missionary Hand Sanitizer
The three key components to its effectiveness

“Based on feedback from the missions we have re-tooled the size,” says Assaf.  “The individual spray bottle is small enough for missionaries to carry around in a pocket or bag, and durable enough to take a lot of varied situations in the field.  Missionaries can also use it to clean surfaces and questionable items such as toilet flush-handles. That is, of course, what it was originally designed for.”

We haven’t been able to say enough good things about this spray bottle from PureBiologixTM.  As we build our own e-store for missionaries, it will be one of the first items we stock. Until the store is built, you can get the spray for your missionaries by clicking here.