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Chapter 46 : René Dubos's Mirage of Health
Alfred Torrance's Tracking down the Enemies of Man, Charles-Edward Amory Winslow's The Conquest of Epidemic Disease, and Peter Baldry's The Battle Against Bacteria are three of many similar titles which tell about past campaigns in our quest to destroy and, if possible, exterminate pathogenic microorganisms. It has been argued that infectious disease should be seen from an ecological perspective and not simply as the result of collisions between potent agents and susceptible hosts, nor should we strive, through antibiosis and antisepsis, to attain a germ-free existence. It was believed that deployment of ever more potent magic bullets was neither the only nor the most effective long-term strategy for dealing with pathogenic microorganisms. The real keys came from ecology, human behavior, and recognition that microbial and human populations are parts of the same evolving biosphere. One of the few benefits of our current uneasy relationship with pathogens is the reemergence of familiar yet neglected principles of infection control. Effective steps in the prevention of disease in future might be motivated by “an emotional revolt against some of the inadequacies of the modern world, and will result from the search for a formula of life more akin to the natural propensities of man. Scientific medicine will certainly define the factors in the physical environment and the types of behavior which constitute threats to health in modern society.