6 Diseases Back From the Past

diseases, pneumonic plague,bubonic plague, polio, chagas disease, leprosy, hookworm, tuberculosis, sugar, vitamin DMany think of bubonic plague, leprosy and polio as diseases of the past -- things that might have had a part in history, but aren't around any longer. But these diseases are still very much with us.

Pneumonic/Bubonic Plague

The pneumonic and bubonic plagues are caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, the difference being that pneumonic plague can spread from person to person -- without infected fleas.

The pneumonic form struck China earlier this year, and bubonic plague still persists in the United States, in the Southwest. Wild rats and fleas carry the disease, and when in proximity to humans, fleas will spread it to them rather than simply among rats.


Polio is still a problem in many countries. It can cause paralysis, in the legs and even the lungs.

But more often it has only subtle signs, so it is difficult to determine who has the virus, making it tricky to eradicate. Complicating matters is that symptoms of polio can often mimic those of other viruses.

Chagas Disease

The disease is spread by the bug known as the kissing bug and the assassin bug. It bites its human victim, defecating and causing an itch, which becomes Chagas disease when the victim scratches the area, allowing the infection to enter the body.

About 8 to 9 million people in Latin America are infected, and 400,000 people in the United States have the disease. The infection attacks the heart, but over the course of many years. Five percent of people will develop symptoms early on, such as liver or spleen enlargement. But the other 95 percent will show no signs for 20 or 30 years.


Leprosy is among the oldest of human diseases. The disease attacks skin and ultimately nerve cells. It is caused by a bacterium similar to the one responsible for tuberculosis.

The most common cause within the United States is exposure to armadillos, whether through eating them, having a farm of them or hunting them.


Hookworm still plagues many living in rural poverty throughout the world. The hookworm parasite, which lives in soil, causes severe anemia in its victim and the infection can prove difficult to get rid of.


Tuberculosis is still around, even if it isn't as deadly as it once was. But TB still poses a major problem for doctors. It's an insidious, slow-onset disease. Ultimately, patients can develop a persistent fever and lose energy and weight. Patients may not know they have the disease, and they can spread it to other people during that time.

Tuberculosis has become more of a threat than it once was with the development of forms that are resistant to the drugs typically used to treat the disease. Because of this, tuberculosis is still fatal to 40 to 50 percent of people who catch it.

Get my FREE 20 health resolutions for 2020 hereGet my FREE 20 health resolutions for 2020 here
Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Before you get frightened, it’s worth mentioning that most of these diseases, although not entirely eradicated, are quite rare. But by implementing just two of my most recommended lifestyle changes, you can further reduce your chances of contracting two of the more common diseases in this rare bunch.

Polio Linked to Sugar Consumption

For example, were you aware of the polio-sugar connection? Few people are, but there’s plenty of research showing that consuming refined sugar increases your risk of contracting polio.

According to one such study, a substance produced during the sugar refining process, such as deoxysugars, may be responsible for polio.

Even if the poliovirus is present in a population, you’re not likely to get it unless you consume large quantities of refined sugar.

One of the most potent clinical examples I can share that supports this surprising conclusion comes from animal experiments done over 50 years ago.

Researchers repeatedly tried to infect rabbits with polio but were unsuccessful until they lowered the rabbits' blood sugar levels with insulin injections, which likely crippled the rabbits’ immune systems and allowed them to contract polio.

As many already know, I firmly believe that sugar is actually more damaging to your health than cigarettes, and my clinical experience supports this view.

Polio, and other infections, only tend to cause complications when your immune system is weakened, which can easily happen through poor nutrition, stress, and lack of sleep.

The polio vaccine is not the ultimate solution to prevent this disease.

In fact, one polio outbreak that occurred in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 2002 was traced to a strain of oral polio vaccine (OPV) that mutated back to virulence.

This is one example showing that acquiring the disease you’re being vaccinated against is one risk of getting vaccinated.

As opposed to loading up on vaccines, limiting your sugar intake is one of the most potent actions you can take to drastically improve your overall health, as it helps keep your immune system strong, which in turn will reduce your risk of any number of diseases.

Vitamin D – One of Your Most Potent Strategies Against TB

A number of recent studies have confirmed the vital role vitamin D plays in increasing your body’s natural capacity to ward off autoimmune diseases, including preventing and treating tuberculosis.

One of the most important functions of vitamin D, which was not at all known until the 21st century, is that it turns on genes in your DNA that are responsible for producing hundreds of antimicrobial peptides that can destroy not only bacteria, but also viruses and fungi.

How good is that?!

To this day scientists haven’t been able to create effective anti-viral drugs, but your body can make them for free by simply exposing your skin to healthy amounts of sunshine or UVB from a safe tanning bed.

Although nearly one third of the world’s population carries the tuberculosis bacteria, only about 0.2 percent of those infected with tuberculosis (TB) actually develop a clinically significant infection. This fact indicates that something other than the bacteria is responsible for developing the disease.

Several studies have appeared in the last decade, indicating that vitamin D is one of the major keys that dictate whether you will actually develop the disease. These studies have all come to the conclusion that vitamin D deficiency sets off the disease if you are a carrier of the bacteria.

One previous study was able to show an astonishing 100 percent resolution rate by treating TB patients with 10,000 units of vitamin D daily (compared with the 400 units usually advocated by conventional medicine).

Researchers have discovered that your white blood cells convert the vitamin D that your skin produces from proper sun exposure into an active form, which helps form a protein that kills the tuberculosis bacteria.

Therefore the more severe your vitamin D deficiency is, the higher your risk of developing the active form of TB.

I’ve written quite extensively on the many health benefits of vitamin D. In fact, one recent meta-analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials concluded that supplemental vitamin D significantly reduces mortality from ALL diseases!

For a refresher on this essential nutrient, I recommend viewing my free one-hour video lecture on vitamin D.

For more information about optimal vitamin D levels, and the best way to safely and effectively raise your levels, please see this previous article.

Ten Steps to Optimal Health and Disease Prevention

When you take steps to optimize your health, you’re also implementing effective measures that will help prevent disease of all kinds.

Remember, disease is a dis-ease – a lack of harmony and balanced functioning inside your body, and a sign that something is askew.

Following these guidelines – which are based on basic tenets of health – will help you optimize your health, and by doing so, minimize your risk of developing disease.

  1. Address your emotional traumas and manage your stress

  2. Get optimal exposure to sunlight

  3. Drink plenty of clean water

  4. Limit your exposure to toxins

  5. Consume healthy fat

  6. Eat a healthy diet that’s right for your nutritional type (paying very careful attention to keeping your insulin levels down)

  7. Eat plenty of raw food

  8. Optimize your insulin and leptin levels

  9. Exercise

  10. Get plenty of good sleep

+ Sources and References