In search of a germ theory equivalent for chronic disease

Prev Chronic Dis. 2012;9:E95. doi: 10.5888/pcd9.110301. Epub 2012 May 10.


The fight against infectious disease advanced dramatically with the consolidation of the germ theory in the 19th century. This focus on a predominant cause of infections (ie, microbial pathogens) ultimately led to medical and public health advances (eg, immunization, pasteurization, antibiotics). However, the resulting declines in infections in the 20th century were matched by a rise in chronic, noncommunicable diseases, for which there is no single underlying etiology. The discovery of a form of low-grade systemic and chronic inflammation ("metaflammation"), linked to inducers (broadly termed "anthropogens") associated with modern man-made environments and lifestyles, suggests an underlying basis for chronic disease that could provide a 21st-century equivalent of the germ theory.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control*
  • Environmental Health
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Life Style
  • Metabolic Diseases / complications
  • Risk Factors