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Plague Time: The New Germ Theory of Disease Paperback – January 8, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0385721844 ISBN-10: 0385721846

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Could change medicine as profoundly during the 21st century as germ theory did in the 20th.”–Newsweek

“Could revolutionize the treatment of serious chronic disease.”–Richard Rhodes

“Has gems of insight and imagery which mark out its author as a master explainer.”–Richard Dawkins

“Paul Ewald’s important, compelling book could revolutionize the treatment of serious chronic disease. I couldn’t put it down.” —Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Deadly Feasts

"Provocative. . . . If correct, this theory will change the course of medicine." —Scientific American

“Paul Ewald is one of the liveliest and most original thinkers about disease. . . . Plague Time contains a new feast of his astonishing insights.” —Mark Ridley, author of The Cooperative Gene

“This book has gems of insight which mark out its author as a master explainer.” —Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene

From the Inside Flap

According to conventional wisdom, our genes and lifestyles are the most important causes of the most deadly ailments of our time. Conventional wisdom may be wrong. In this controversial book, the eminent biologist Paul W. Ewald offers some startling arguments:

-Germs appear to be at the root of heart disease, Alzheimer?s, schizophrenia, many forms of cancer, and other chronic diseases.
-The greatest threats to our health come not from sensational killers such as Ebola, West Nile virus, and super-virulent strains of influenza, but from agents that are already here causing long-term infections, which eventually lead to debilitation and death.
-The medical establishment has largely ignored the evidence that implicates these germs, to the detriment of our public health.
-New evolutionary theories are available, which explain how germs function and offer opportunities for controlling these modern plagues ? if we are willing to listen to them.

Plague Time is an eye-opening exploration of the revolutionary new understanding of disease that may set the course of medical research for the twenty-first century.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (January 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385721846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385721844
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #492,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Lovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on July 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Plague Time (2000)" and Ewald's earlier "Evolution of Infectious Disease (1994)" advocate a new discipline called 'evolutionary epidemiology.'
One of the big shockers in both books is that: "Application of evolutionary principles does not lead to the conclusion that all parasites [including viruses and bacteria] evolve toward benignness."
Only under circumstances where new hosts are relatively hard to infect (due to a clean water supply or screened windows or condoms) are parasites forced to co-exist in a relatively benign state with their current victims. In both books, Ewald uses cholera as an example of a germ that has evolved to benignness in countries with clean water supplies, but is still a killer in countries with bad plumbing.
"Plague Time" takes this thesis a step further and concludes that many so-called chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis and certain cancers are also caused--or at least triggered by infection.
Peptic ulcers are a case in point. Even though some doctors back in the 1940s realized that antibiotics could heal ulcers, the technique never caught on in mainstream medicine. It was too easy to blame the patient's life-style and stress levels, and besides 'Helicobacter pylori' was hard to find. Four decades later, researchers in Perth, Australia discovered that patients with ulcers and gastritis improved after tetracycline. One of the researchers, Barry Marshall drank an infective dose of 'H. Pylori,' got gastritis, then cured himself with antibiotics. "Still, it was only in the mid-1990s that the medical establishment finally generally accepted the idea that peptic and duodenal ulcers are infectious diseases.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sergio A. Salazar Lozano on October 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
I can see some readers think this book is not easy for the layman, but the truth is if this is your first approximation to evolutionary medicine or evolutionary epidemiology, I think this is a good book for you to start. There are other excellent books out there like "Why do we get sick?" by Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams (which I personally recommend too) that may be simpler and broader, but they lack some of the originality Paul Ewald has in this book. The only thing I criticize about this book is that it could have made its point in fewer pages, that aside it was truly great.

Ewald's perspective is original and really logic, I only keep thinking it might be a little exaggerated to think it is going to revolutionize medicine. He surely states really important new axioms, and in this way he is revolutionizing medicine, but I believe the benefits derived by his hypothesis are not going to be that outstanding. The book is great and original, not hard reading but challenge common knowledge (not common sense, be careful).
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
The dramatic message of this book is that chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis, are not necessarily caused by an inherent and inevitable breakdown of the human body, but by the action of infectious agents and by the immune response to those agents. Sooner or later, some bug finds its way through your defenses and settles in. Sometimes you know right away (small pox) BUT sometimes it takes years (AIDS, Lyme) sometimes it takes decades (shingles). This is not a new-agey wishful thinking assessment of risks, but a scientific analysis of disease and its causes, based on experimental data. The companion volume "The Evolution of Infectious Disease" covers much of the same ground but gives much detail to satisfy the sceptics.
I'm a scientist (but not a biologist) and I would bet this is one of the 20 century books that will still be a recommended book a century from now. Ewald's theory is still fighting for recognition, but there are so many factors that are "right" about it that it has to prevail (like evolution.) The big questions are about how effectively we can fight quietly acting micro-organisms whose effects don't show up for years or decades.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By digdave73 on October 29, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book surveys the past, present, and future of infectious disease management, in many cases re-defining or re-classifying diseases accepted as genetic or risk-factor associated. This book would be very helpful to those trying to sort out the information and dis-information presented to them on the nightly news so that they can make informed decisions on the next trip to the doctor for the runny nose, as well as gaining some insight into the effects of current medical research on diseases that are much more serious (and how they get that way).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Patrick L. Boyle on September 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My first job out of graduate school was as a consultant in Nixon's War on Cancer. My background was in quantitative policy analysis not medicine. So I and the other consultants (also chosen for their mathematical skill not their medical knowledge)began to bone up on what was known about cancer. One thing was clear - it wasn't infectious.

We were wrong then. In the seventies the conventional wisdom was that maybe one percent of all cancers were caused by some infectious agent, usually suspected to be a virus. I was part of The National Cancer Control Survey. I interviewed State Public health Officers (every state has one). Nobody ever mentioned controlling viruses or any other pathogen.

Ewald traces the changing medical opinion about cancer in the decades since. Today at least 10% of cancers are considered to have been discovered to be caused by an infection. The trend is up. He thinks that someday soon medicine will consider cancer an infectious disease like TB or peptic ulcers.

At the time "The Lady of the Camellias" (La Traviata) was written no one knew that consumption was infectious. That's why Armand (Alfredo)kisses Marguerite(Camille-Violetta)without a second thought. TB was only discovered to be infectious in the late nineteenth century. Similarly for most of my life the medical establishment considered peptic ulcers to be caused by "stress". Only recently has the bacterium that actually causes it been found.

Ewald thinks that all chronic diseases like cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, arthitis, and schizophrenia are also caused by some as yet unknown virus or bacterium.

I think he's right.
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