FYI: Article: Germs NOT Genes Cause Most Disease : Paul Ewald Theories 
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 FYI: Article: Germs NOT Genes Cause Most Disease : Paul Ewald Theories

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Scientist: Germs, Not Genes, Cause Most Diseases

.c The Associated Press

AMHERST, Mass. -- Paul W. Ewald's best thinking started with an attack
of diarrhea on a field trip to Kansas.

A zoologist, he was studying the social habits of sparrows. But during
that ordeal 24 years ago, he had time to ponder other things: Was his
personal predicament simply the havoc of a germ bent on spreading
itself around? Or was his body trying to flush away the germ? Was this
the evolutionary adaptation of an invader or the evolved human defense
against it?

Healthy again, he checked the medical literature. ``I realized that
virtually all considerations of evolutionary processes in the medical
literature were incorrect,'' he says.

So, he set out to fix that. Although not a physician, Ewald has applied
the insights of 19th century evolutionary thinker Charles Darwin to
help pioneer a perspective on disease now known as Darwinian, or
evolutionary, medicine. Ewald has concluded that mainstream medicine,
fixated on genes and lifestyle, is overlooking the chief cause of the
most enduring, widespread and harmful illnesses of humankind.

Heart disease? He suspects germs. Cancer? Likely infection by germs.
Mental illness? Also germs.

With a few colleagues, he has promoted a modest research renaissance in
the germ theory of disease, which has been largely overshadowed by
other ideas since polio, smallpox, tuberculosis and other perennial
scourges were unmasked as infectious many decades ago. The scientific
proof is mounting that Ewald could be right - at least in saying germs
have been underestimated - about a second wave of diseases.

For example, peptic ulcers, long tied to stress and overachieving
personalities, are now widely blamed on the Helicobacter pylori
bacterium and often treated with antibiotics. Cervical cancer has been
traced to the human papilloma virus, which also causes {*filter*} warts.

Ewald didn't make these discoveries, but he has pounced on them as
evidence that genetics and environment have been overstated as
contributors to disease and that the best germ research lies ahead.

``Infectious medicine has always been underestimated,'' says Ewald.
``The problem is that infectious diseases are extremely diverse.''

Confronting such a vast array, his thinking has transcended the
boundaries of his formal training and specialized confines of most
scientific thought. His latest book, ``Plague Time: How Stealth
Infections Cause Cancers, Heart Disease, and Other Deadly Ailments,''
published in October, spans the history of medicine from the bubonic
plague to the Human Genome Project. Ewald, a 47-year-old Amherst
College biology professor, wrote the book for the lay public with plain
language and a flair for storytelling rare in science.

Many scientists, even including some evolutionary medicine advocates,
wonder if Ewald goes too far in the sweep of his germ theory. ``I'm
made uncomfortable by global generalizations,'' says University of
Michigan psychiatrist Randolph Nesse. ``They make some scientists think
that Darwinian medicine is something different from regular medicine in
terms of its standards.''

But Ewald says his ideas are ``supposed to jar people out of the
complacency they feel about modern medicine.''

Ewald portrays disease as primitive warfare. Viruses, bacteria and
other microscopic creatures penetrate the body's defenses. Once inside,
they feast on humans, multiply, and then go looking for new bodies to

Over time, humans evolve new defenses or invent protections like
antibiotics and vaccines. However, germs, which can breed new
generations every half hour or less, evolve rapidly to defeat the
latest defenses. Ewald argues that new antibiotics are bound to lose
ground to fast-evolving germs.

However, he says humans can favor benign germs by making life tougher
on harmful forms. Better sanitation blockades the worst strains of
cholera, which ride the water supply to find new human hosts. When
there's no easy route, evolution gives the advantage to more friendly
cholera germs - those that survive longer inside a human without being
lethal. Ewald says vaccines should be designed to disarm only the
harmful parts of germs, encouraging the evolution of gentler forms.

In one of his central insights, he says genetic diseases cannot evolve
and wage battle like germs, because human genetic mutations are too
rare. If a genetic disease is both harmful and common, it should kill
off the humans who carry it and fail to replenish itself quickly enough
through mutations to persist over many successive human generations.
Therefore, Ewald reasons, widespread ailments like heart disease,
cancer and many mental illnesses should stem mainly from evolving
germs, not bad genes.

He also thinks the role of chemical pollutants in causing sickness is
overstated. The human body, he says, is adapted to handle low levels of
chemicals, and few are pervasive enough in high enough amounts to
explain many major illnesses outright.

Mainstream researchers view many diseases as a delicate interplay of
all these factors: genes, environmental agents such as cigarette smoke
or asbestos, and - yes - germs too.

Ewald generally agrees, but he says the establishment is so hypnotized
by the watchworks of human genetics that it often overlooks the ever-
changing target of germs. He says a Germ Genome Project would do more
to explain major illnesses than the lavishly praised human one.

``Not everything is going to be caused by infection,'' Ewald says,
``but essentially all the big, important ones are going to be caused by

He has some respected companions in the ranks of germ theorists. They
include George Williams, a retired zoologist, former editor of The
Quarterly Review of Biology, and co-author of the influential 1995 book
``Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine.''

Williams agrees that germs will ultimately help explain the still
unknown sources of many major diseases.

``Whether that's true to the extent Paul is saying, I'm not sure,'' he
adds. ``But it certainly needs to be looked into.''

Right now, no one can be sure, and even some scientists intrigued by
Ewald's theories are wary of his broad claims.

For example, John Hays, a molecular geneticist at Oregon State
University, says overwhelming evidence shows a close connection between
cancer and mutations of genes that control cell growth. ``I don't see
any way to get to the vast majority of cancers without these
mutations,'' he says.

And cardiologist Paul Ridker, at Brigham and Women's Hospital in
Boston, has searched in vain for germs that could cause cardiovascular

``The critical components of who has a heart attack are acquired:
obesity and smoking,'' he says. ``You don't necessarily have to invoke
exposure to an organism.''

AP-NY-01-07-01 1655EST

Joel M. Shmukler, Esquire, Director LYMECURE

Sent via

Fri, 27 Jun 2003 23:35:19 GMT
 FYI: Article: Germs NOT Genes Cause Most Disease : Paul Ewald Theories
I have a tendency to agree with much of what he says.  I would like to
take vaccines one step farther.  Over the years I've read studies which
indicate that vaccines can destroy between 30 - 70% of the bodies
immune system.  It has been stated that through vaccines we have
elimenated small pox and polio.  Yet over the past decade there has
been a resurgence of polio, especially among the elderly who had it
when they were young.  We are also experiencing a resurgence of the
measles, even among those who were vaccinated against it.  I deal with
several pharm. research companies, and have had this discussion with
many researchers.  I've had a wide range of response from these
individuals.  Some think I'm a sandwich short of a picnic, others take
it farther than I do.  One thing they all agree on, the scope of micro
organisms it expanding/growing, not decreasing.


Sent via

Sat, 28 Jun 2003 00:14:09 GMT
 FYI: Article: Germs NOT Genes Cause Most Disease : Paul Ewald Theories
Yes, and there was a very in-depth study done in Scandanavia and
published in the NEJM in the last year that concluded environmental
factors, not genes, were responsible for cancers studied in twins (from
a group of more than 40,000 sets of twins).  This came out at about the
same time that the news media were celebrating the conclusion of the
human genome sequencing project.

Sent via

Sun, 29 Jun 2003 03:01:37 GMT
 [ 3 post ] 

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