Vega testing in the diagnosis of allergic conditions

C H Katelaris, J M Weiner, R J Heddle, M S Stuckey and K W Yan for The Australian College of Allergy *

Vega testing (the Vega test method) is an unorthodox method of diagnosing allergic and other diseases. It has no established scientific basis and there are no controlled trials to support its usefulness. Vega testing may lead to inappropriate treatment and expense to the patient and community.

(Med J Aust 1991; 155: 113-114)



Vega testing is a form of modified electroacupuncture. It is an unorthodox technique which its proponents claim can diagnose allergic and other diseases.

Theoretical basis

Testing with the Vega machine is one of the bioenergetic regulatory techniques that has its origins in acupuncture and homoeopathy. Its basis is the concept of "energetic pathology", which postulates that the first sign of abnormality in the body is an electrical charge. Further, if abnormal electrical charges continue for long enough, then eventually structural changes will ensue. 1

The Vega machine purports to measure one aspect of these bioenergetic phenomena by recording the change in skin conductivity after the application of a small voltage. Localisation of the source of an abnormal response is accomplished by placing homoeopathic extracts in this electrical loop. 2

Development of Vega testing

The technique that antedates Vega testing is electroacupuncture according to Voll (known as EAV). In the 1950s, a German doctor, Reinholdt Voll, promoted the concept that electrical changes at specific acupuncture points were related to pathology in the organs to which the measured point belonged. 1 Voll developed a complex diagnostic system based on the acupuncture meridian system. Further, he placed extracts of medicines into series in the circuit and claimed that useful medicines could thus be detected. His technique necessitated the measurement at many acupuncture points.

Another German doctor, Helmut Schimmel, used only one skin point as an indicator. He suggested that the site or organ of abnormality could be detected by placing homoeopathic extracts of mammalian organs into the circuit. 1 The apparatus which he developed in the early 1970s used this principle and was the Vega test system.

Vega testing apparatus and technique

The apparatus consists of a box which contains a galvanometer (Wheatstone bridge circuit). This compares the resistance between the skin in contact with a hand electrode and the skin tested with a measuring stylus. The other contents of the box are an electrical source to provide a direct voltage of 0.87 volt through the patient, and a metal honeycomb in which ampoules can be placed in series with the circuit. A dial with 100 scale divisions shows 100 when the connected resistance is 0, and shows 0 when the connected resistance is infinity.

Initially, a piezoelectric spark generator (producing 400 volts/second), is applied to the patient. This "stresses" the patient and is claimed to unmask weaknesses in the body. 3,4 The patient grasps the hand electrode, and a control measurement is made by applying the stylus (probe) to the patient's finger or toe. The machine is adjusted until a reading of 80 to 100 scale units is produced. A chosen extract is now placed in the circuit and the measurement repeated. A drop of 15 scale units or more is considered a positive result.

It should be emphasised that the various extracts are in homoeopathic doses. Dilutions of 10-4 or greater are usual. In addition, these extracts are in sealed ampoules which are inserted into the metal honeycomb. The ampoules are not opened. The current flows around these ampoules.

Diagnostic claims of Vega testing

Many claims are made of the diagnostic capabilities of Vega testing. 2-4 The main points are as follows.

  1. The site of the abnormality is determined by the organ extract which elicits a positive response. Extracts from all organs, including such diverse ones as the coronary arteries and the common bile duct, are supplied. There are even extracts of left and right mammary gland, and of left and right epididymis.
  2. "Pretesting" is a technique for obtaining information about general "stresses". Examples of extracts that are used and what they detect include: chlorophyll or linseed oil (chronic stress), saturated sugar water (acute stress), Candida (multiple food allergies), and allergy "injectopas" [sic] (autoimmune diseases). There are many other examples.
  3. "Geopathic stress" is claimed to arise from subtle environmental influences such as mines, caves, running water, electrical appliances and gravity fields. Extracts of agate, calcium or silica are used to detect these disturbances. There is even a report of a false-negative geopathic stress test result due to the influence of the full moon. 3,4
  4. The "biological age" of a person is determined by different dilutions of "potentised mesenchyme (embryonic connective tissue)" [sic].
  5. Stresses and disorders which are undetectable can be measured by adding an "amplification" extract. The recommended extract for this purpose is "epiphysis" (pineal gland organ preparation).
  6. Premalignant conditions are diagnosed by means of "psorinum" extract. Test ampoules containing homoeopathic extracts of carcinoma, sarcoma and leukaemic white blood cells, among others, are used to identify these tumours in the body. An extract of the poison ivy plant (Toxicodendron radicans) is used to diagnose the presence of cysts in the patient.
  7. Many other specific claims are made. Allergies to any substances can be detected by placing extracts of these substances in the circuit. There appear to be no restrictions on the type of material that can be tested. The detection of food intolerance is claimed to be "quick and reliable" and "about 80% accurate".3,4 Vega testing is promoted for the diagnosis of such "disorders" as Candida allergy, chronic sinusitis, streptococcal toxicity and chronic tonsillitis, Salmonella toxicity and myalgic encephalomyelitis. 3,4

The evidence

There is no evidence to support the theoretical basis or the practical claims of the Vega test method. This is admitted by the inventor of the Vega machine, Dr H Schimmel, who writes "the effective base of the Vega test method is still unknown . . .2

Various techniques have been used to rationalise the use of these bioregulatory techniques, including the Vega machine. These are as follows.

  1. Convoluted pseudoscientific jargon. A good example is the following sentence taken from the handbook which accompanies the Vega machine: "Only after applying a suitable stress, which forces the organism to regulate in response to this stress, can the energetic compensatory processes be made manifest for a short time, and in most cases, show a clear correspondence with the morphological findings. 2
  2. Allusion to accepted physical principles. Krop et al. make the statement that "the key to scientific understanding of these techniques lies in the area of particle physics, particularly the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the Einstein-Rodolsky-Rosen effect".5 However, neither they nor others attempt to bridge the gap between traditional physics and bioregulatory diagnosis.
  3. Begging the question. Kenyon, in his book, 21st century medicine, writes "the observation that structural change in the body ensues following pre-existing long-standing electrical change is repeatedly confirmed by bioregulatory techniques".1 Kenyon assumed that bioregulatory techniques are a scientifically valid method of measurement.
  4. Irrelevant citations. A recent review of Vega testing by Gould cites three references as "some evidence supporting the relationship between evoked electrical conductivity and particular acupuncture points which are of diagnostic value to the patient's particular disease process".3,4 In fact, the first of these references is a letter to the editor in the Journal of General Practice, which has no direct supportive data. 6 The second reference purports to provide evidence that the evoked electrical conductivity on lung acupuncture points can diagnose lung cancer. 7 This paper describes as many false positive results as true positive results and subsequently counted twice in some instances, thus expanding the series. The major confounding factor -- that of moist skin in sick, worried subjects, and dry skin in relaxed, healthy subjects -- is not eliminated. The third paper describes the change in skin resistance after vagotomy in rabbits and presents no statistical analysis of the findings. 8
  5. Claims of clinical success. This is the "fall-back" position of proponents of the Vega test method. 3,4 There are no controlled trials to support claims such as "... what are more important than the scant scientific data, are the clinical results obtained".3,4

Assessment and recommendations

Vega testing is a technique of diagnosis without scientific basis. It purports to be useful in assessing a large range of conditions from allergy to cancer. At the best, it is a prop which can help some patients overcome ill-defined symptoms. At the worst, it can lead to inappropriate or delayed treatment. 9 Proponents of the system use a smoke screen of illusion which includes convoluted scientific jargon and unsubstantiated claims of efficacy.

The Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Committee in New Zealand has recently censured a medical practitioner who used a Vega machine. 10

The Australian College of Allergy concludes:

  1. Vega testing (Vega test method) is without established scientific basis in the diagnosis of allergy.
  2. The use of Vega testing may lead to inappropriate treatment and expense to the patient and community.

*The authors constitute the Scientific and Therapeutic Subcommittee of The Australian College of Allergy.

Westmead Hospital, Westmead, NSW 2145.
Constance H Katelaris, MB BS, PhD, FRACP, Visiting Medical Officer

Alfred Hospital, Commercial Road, Prahran, VIC 3181.
John M Weiner, MB BS, FRACP, FRCPA, Assistant Physician

Royal Adelaide Hospital, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5000.
Robert J Heddle, MB BS, PhD, FRACP, FRCPA, Senior Visiting Specialist in Allergy

State Health Laboratories, Nedlands, WA 6009.
Martin S Stuckey, MB BS, FRACP, FRCPA, Immunologist/Pathologist

Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, NSW 2050.
Kwok W Yan, MD, FRACP, Visiting Medical Officer


  1. Kenyon JN. 21st century medicine: a layman=s guide to the medicine of the future. Wellingborough, Northants: Thorsons, 1986.
  2. Fehrenbach J, Noll H, Nolte HG, et al. Short manual of the Vegatest-method. Schiltach: BER, 1986.
  3. Gould G. Vegatest method - part 1. N Z J Acupuncture 1987; Apr 6-14.
  4. Gould G. Vegatest method - part 2. N Z J Acupuncture 1987; Aug 17-24.
  5. Krop J, Swiertzek J, Wood A. Comparison of ecological testing with the Vega test method in identifying sensitivities to chemicals, foods and inhalants. Am J Acupuncture 1985; 13 253-259.
  6. Kenyon J. EAV diagnosis. J Gen Pract 1986: 3; 2.
  7. Sullivan SG, Egglestone DW, Martinoff JT, Kroening RJ. Evoked electrical conductivity on the lung acupuncture points in healthy individuals and confirmed lung cancer patients. Am J Acupuncture 1985; 13: 261-266 .
  8. Matsumoto T, Hayes MF. Acupuncture, electric phenomenon of the skin, and postvagotomy gastrointestinal atony. Am J Surg 1973; 125: 176-180.
  9. David TJ. Unorthodox allergy procedures. Arch Dis Child 1987; 62: 1060-1062.
  10. Anonymous. Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Committee: professional misconduct findings against Dr D W Steeper [Medico-legal]. N Z Med J 1990; 103: 194-195.