- Paperback: 282 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (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: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Plague Time: The New Germ Theory of Disease Reprint Edition
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“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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Top Customer Reviews
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."
So what will the decisive medical technologies of the future be, if it is indeed accepted that many chronic illnesses are caused by infection? The author believes that, "Vaccines, antimicrobials, and hygienic improvements may control most heart disease, infertility, mental illnesses, and cancers, especially if these solutions are used not just to decimate pathogens but also to direct the evolution of the causative microbes."
"Plague Time" is a fascinating look at what may be the near-future of medicine if physicians can be trained to look at infectious diseases in terms of evolutionary epidemiology.
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).
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.
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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