Crosby's Reviews > Plague Time: The New Germ Theory of Disease

Plague Time by Paul Ewald
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Jan 16, 2012

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Read in January, 2012

The author, Dr. Ewald is a college professor and researcher who has become well known for his ideas relating natural selection and evolution to infectious diseases in humans. Some of the more noted medical schools in the country are incorporating his ideas into their training of physicians. The basic theme of his book is that some of the most common and dangerous diseases in humans might have an infectious disease component. Most people including many physicians and researchers do not consider heart attacks, autoimmune diseases, cancer, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc to be related in any way to microorganisms. Ewald describes how the same thing was thought in the not too distant past about ulcers, cervical cancer, infertility, liver cancer, etc. Ewald presents a historical perspective of the latter diseases and shows how researchers that "thought outside of the box" were able to prove that infectious organisms were in fact responsible. He then discusses recent findings that are providing hints that we may still have some big surprises in store for the future of many diseases thought to be free of microbial influence. For example, he speculates what it will mean if we find that the inflammation and atherosclerosis that often precedes heart attacks has a microbial cause.He cites studies that indicate that the bacterium that causes one form of "walking pneumonia", Chlamydia pneumoniae, is somehow involved. He states that if these findings are true, "atherosclerosis would be enough to make C. pneumoniae rank among the most deadly human pathogens of all times". Another intriguing example, among many, is his discussion of an infectious cause for breast cancer. When he is discussing the role of microbes in such human afflictions, the book is engrossing. On the other hand there are topics of discussion that are peripheral to his theme that would be better edited out. For example the extensive discussion of the evidence for HIV being introduced into humans through vaccine production could have been edited and still made the point. Likewise, the section on biological warfare/terrorism could have either been deleted altogether or at least tied into the overall theme a little more smoothly. Overall, this book discusses an idea that is, as Scientific American noted, "Provocative....if correct, this theory will change the course of medicine."
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