Plague Time: How Stealth Infections Cause Cancer, Heart Disease, and Other Deadly Ailments Hardcover – Nov 14 2000
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From Publishers 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 thriveAand 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 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From 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 diseasesDincluding clogged arteries, diabetes, cancer, and schizophreniaDare 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.DMarit MacArthur Taylor, Auraria Lib., Denver
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The world needs more insightful doctors like Paul Ewald. I highly recommend this book to learn about how viruses and other pathogens are causing so many of our health problems!
Dr. Ewald's thesis is that infectious agents quickly evolve to maximize their reproductive success. Their virulence and the nature of the acute or chronic symptoms they cause are a function of how they are transmitted. The discussions of microbe evolution deepened my understanding of biology and evolution. There are many examples presented.
Many sections were unnecessarily wordy, with clumsy and overly long sentence constructions and much redundancy. This made parts of the book slow and heavy going. His frequent and often lengthy criticisms of the medical establishment are justified in my view, but sometimes got tiresome. In spite of the effort required, Plague Time is well worth reading.
The Amherst professor is trying to drag the medical establishment into the Darwinian age. While modern research often aims to uncover genetic factors in major diseases, Ewald contends that "human genome mania" often violates the fundamental principle of biology, Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. Darwin argued that families with harmful hereditary traits will die out over time, asserts Ewald, and would be replaced by lineages whose hereditary constitution better enables them to survive and reproduce.
Ultimate goals aside, Ewald has made sure that lay readers will find his book interesting and intelligible. He believes that patients are often more open-minded than their doctors.
In an interview, Ewald claimed that the health benefits of the Human Genome Project are over hyped because "most diseases aren't genetic." He said research funds dedicated to improve antibiotics would bring greater payoffs than those spent on the glamour field of genetic research.
Ewald, who is not a medical doctor, said, "My goal is to bring into medicine all of biology, especially evolution."
So far, he has had more success persuading other biologists than the medical establishment. The late William D. Hamilton of Oxford University, England -- considered by the likes of Edward O.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Excellent book- stirs up controversy on chronic illnesses and thier possible viral et.al. causes. A must read.Dr. Ewald's ideas need a wide readership. Read morePublished on July 1 2001 by Leslie M. Lothstein
Ewald sets out to show that medicine has made so little progress over the past 50 years in tackling chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer because it has been looking in... Read morePublished on May 15 2001 by Jon
The gentleman below has written a sterling review. I couldn't say it better. I'm only here to point out that many of the items I review feature poignant insights which often are... Read morePublished on April 16 2001 by David Kleist
Actually, that's pretty much all this book is. There was a cover article in "Atlantic Monthly" a few years back that contained all the important ideas in this book and... Read morePublished on Feb. 13 2001 by Douglas Turnbull
I was initially very excited to read this book; and it does identify some serious problems with current perspectives on the origins of disease. Read morePublished on Feb. 5 2001 by Nichomachus
Ewald's startling thesis is that "infection is at the root of the major chronic diseases of our time" (p. 271). Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2001 by Dennis Littrell
Ewald's book is a reflection of many sensationalist tomes we've seen over the past 5 years about disease. Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2001 by Richard M. Anderson
About halfway through Plague Time, the author notes the reaction of the evolutionary biologist William D. Hamilton to the theory that AIDS was caused by a contaminated vaccine. Read morePublished on Dec 26 2000 by Michael Lima