The Origin of Plagues: Old and New

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  21 Aug 1992:
Vol. 257, Issue 5073, pp. 1073-1078
DOI: 10.1126/science.257.5073.1073


Viruses and bacteria emerge in new and old forms to cause disease epidemics. Some microorganisms recur when changing life-styles (including increased international travel) offer new opportunities;others arise from new genetic variations. These various epidemics connect the future with the past, offering lessons for guarding the health of generations to come—lessons learned from diseases such as tuberculosis, toxic shock syndrome, Lyme disease, streptococcal infection, influenza, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The public must be vigilant to the possibility of new epidemics, learn more about the biology and epidemiology of microbes, and strengthen systems of surveillance and detection.