Plague Time: How Stealth Infections Cause Cancers, Heart Disease and Other Deadly Ailments

Plague Time: How Stealth Infections Cause Cancers, Heart Disease and Other Deadly Ailments

by Paul W. Ewald, Paul Ewald
     
 

In Plague Time, Ewald puts forth an astonishing and profound argument that challenges our modern beliefs about disease: it is germs - not genes - that mold our lives and cause our deaths. Building on the recently recognized infectious origins of ulcers, miscarriages, and cancers, he draws together a startling collection of discoveries that now implicate infection…  See more details below

Overview

In Plague Time, Ewald puts forth an astonishing and profound argument that challenges our modern beliefs about disease: it is germs - not genes - that mold our lives and cause our deaths. Building on the recently recognized infectious origins of ulcers, miscarriages, and cancers, he draws together a startling collection of discoveries that now implicate infection in the most destructive chronic diseases of our time, such as heart disease, Alzheimer's, and schizophrenia.

Editorial Reviews

Annie Murphy Paul
With an argument certain to stir controversy, Ewald asserts that germs are the culprits for almost every serious ailment plaguing humans today, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, and arthritis. he also proposes some broad policy measures. Although Ewald can be arrogant, his enthusiasm for the topic is contagious.
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Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Could breast cancer be caused, not by genes, but by a pathogen passed to humans from mice? Very possibly, according to Amherst College biology professor Ewald (Evolution of Infectious Disease) in this controversial page-turner that's certain to garner attention. In a cogent defense of our evolutionarily selected genes, Ewald proposes that the true culprits behind chronic ailments and even mental disorders are pathogens. He propels his argument by noting the "biases of human thought" that inhibited scientific growth in the 19th century (when the notion of microbes was first rejected) and those that are, he believes, stifling the research of infectious diseases today. For example, the infectious origin of peptic ulcers wasn't recognized until the mid-1980s, more than 30 years after physicians demonstrated the effectiveness of antibacterial agents in ulcer patients. The reason for this "scientific paralysis" lies in the prevalent misconception that most infectious diseases are like the common cold, acute yet ephemeral rather than chronic. Challenging this popular mindset, Ewald thoroughly examines the calculated attack strategies of a number of chronic, sexually transmitted diseases (such as herpes, syphilis and AIDS). In contrast to the complex task of determining disease origins, however, Ewald's solutions are surprisingly simple: clean water, safe sex, home care when you're ill, awareness of pathogen evolution and more funding. The world of infectious diseases, Ewald makes clear, continues to thrive--and anyone involved in the study or practice of medicine and any scientifically literate reader curious about the origins of disease will want to read this challenging work. Author tour. (Nov. 14) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
For many years stomach ulcers were thought to be the product of stress, acid, and spicy foods; now we know they are caused by bacteria. Amherst biology professor Ewald (Evolution of Infectious Diseases) suggests that many other chronic diseases--including clogged arteries, diabetes, cancer, and schizophrenia--are at least partially caused by infectious agents, and here he presents research that bolsters his claims. Beyond this, he argues that studying how infectious agents evolve can lead to techniques for more effective control of killer diseases such as malaria and AIDS through decreasing their virulence. He also discusses some ethical issues related to treating diseases. An example is whether it is best to treat an individual with antibiotics when this may cause problems for a whole population if antibiotic resistance in bacteria is a result. Ewald's ideas are controversial but intriguing and have far-reaching implications. His clear, entertaining, and well-documented style makes the book appealing to a wide variety of readers. Highly recommended for all types of libraries.--Marit MacArthur Taylor, Auraria Lib., Denver Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
A lucid and controversial study of infections, infectiousness, and chronic illness. Many of the chronic ailments we think of as genetic are really, in Ewald's (Biology/Amherst Coll.) view, the result of "stealth" infections we don't entirely understand; our models for combating them are badly outdated, like attempts to fight this century's war with last century's weapons. For many of these infections, the solutions are simple (use insect-proof window screens, don't administer the same antibiotics to animals and humans, provide clean drinking water, and teach hygiene in the schools)—but remarkably difficult to enact. We worry about acute infections like influenza, Ebola, and Nile River encephalitis because they kill dramatically, quickly, and exotically, but most acute infections are neutralized by our immune system: if they don't kill us, they will bother us no more. Or will they? Chicken pox can resurface as shingles; other herpes viruses also reemerge. In addition to providing a fascinating history of our combat with microbes (and an excellent, readable explanation of the immune system), the author exposes us, so to speak, to a host of viruses and bacteria that can live for years without displaying the smallest symptom. Heliobacter pylori, for example, is responsible for most peptic ulcers and may cause certain cancers; the papillomavirus causes genital warts in its acute phase and cervical and penile cancers in its chronic phase. Both kill widely, but neither results in the high alert that more foreign-sounding infections arouse. This is why, Ewald argues, we are far behind in the search for cures to most chronic illnesses. Although the arrival of retroviruses like HIVandHTLV has forced us to rethink the mechanism of infection, we are still largely in the dark as far as treatment is concerned. The bad news is that inoculation as we know it simply may not be possible—or, if it is, may have only a limited role in prevention and cure. A frightening alarm whose many suggestions—starting with simple hygiene—will be ignored at our own peril.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684869001
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
01/28/2000
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.41(w) x 9.57(h) x 0.97(d)

What People are saying about this

Richard Rhodes
"Paul Ewald's important, compelling book could revolutionize the treatment of serious chronic disease. I couldn't put it down."
Carl Zimmer
"Paul Ewald's work linking medicine to evolutionary biology has always been fascinating, and Plague Time carries on that tradition. With wonderfully clear writing, he lays out a controversial argument that infections trigger many cancers and other supposedly noninfectious diseases. And best of all, he shows how his ideas can be tested and turned into cures. An elegant firebomb of a book."
Richard Dawkins
"Quite apart from its main thesis, which I am not qualified to judge but which sounds to me frighteningly plausible, this book has gems of insight and imagery which mark out its author as a master explainer. The chapter comparing the immune system with the brain is a tour de force."

Meet the Author

Paul W. Ewald, professor of biology at Amherst College, was the first recipient of the George R. Burch Fellowship in Theoretic Medicine and Affliated Sciences. The publication of his Evolution of Infectious Disease is widely acknowledged by doctors and scientists as a watershed in the emergence of the new discipline of evolutionary medicine. He has been featured in The Atlantic, Newsweek, Discover, and Forbes.

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