Medicine: New Plagues for Old?

Mystery maladies keep disease detectives busy

The list of deadly but controllable diseases is long and impressive: plague, diphtheria, malaria, polio, smallpox, typhoid and yellow fever. Even cancer and heart disease at last seem to be yielding up their secrets to medical research. But in the past ten years, doctors have focused on a number of mysterious "new" ailments, notably Legionnaires' disease and toxic shock syndrome.

One reason for the flurry of strange ailments is that diagnosis constantly becomes more refined. Dramatic advances in laboratory technology, like the use of radioactive substances, have helped doctors better understand disease processes. Also, physicians are more...

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