THE SECRET KILLER
"The connection of inflammation to major degenerative diseases will be one of the hottest topics in medicine for years to come." STEVE FAZIA Fort Mill, S.C.
Your article on the destructive effects that chronic inflammation can have on the body answered myriad questions about the relationships among various illnesses [Feb. 23]. You provided potentially lifesaving information. I now have a new direction to pursue that may help me receive aggressive medical treatment. There was more information in this article than I have received in the past year from my family doctor, neurologist and orthopedic surgeon combined. JEAN AYOTTE White Lake, Wis.
Thanks so much for your report. Only four years ago, after I returned from Africa and a stint in the Peace Corps, I had trouble convincing physicians that my ongoing digestive-tract problems (later diagnosed as irritable-bowel syndrome) seemed to be linked to periodic hives and aching muscles and joints. The docs were stumped. Now I realize that ailments like mine afflict many people. Your article clarified the mechanisms by which these reactions occur in the body. This understanding, along with new discoveries about the links between inflammation and psychological ailments such as depression and stress, may lead us to a better appreciation of the mind-body connection and holistic therapies used for centuries by other cultures. TODD CROSBY Washington
I am a practicing dentist and was pleased that you referred to gum disease as a source of chronic inflammation. But I was surprised you did not explore the link in greater detail. The relationship between gum disease and systemic disease, specifically heart disease, has been widely reported. Your article takes it to the next step. The overall ability of the body to heal and stay healthy is certainly compromised by a chronic infection like gum disease. People need to learn how to achieve and maintain dental health. ROBERT DEL PRESTO Brick, N.J.
In your report on inflammation, you noted that the drug Remicade, which this company produces, can target specific inflammatory problems and has been effective against rheumatoid arthritis. You also said that patients who take Remicade "are slightly more likely to develop tuberculosis." You should have made clear that this risk of tuberculosis is not unique to Remicade but has been observed in other biotech drugs that target disease in the same fashion, including Enbrel. With proper screening and patient monitoring, the tuberculosis risk can be managed. JEROME A. BOSCIA, M.D. SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR CLINICAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTOCOR INC. Malvern, Pa.
Egad! After reading your article on how inflammation is linked to death in so many ways, I told my wife to start planning my funeral, because I could drop dead any minute. Having seen so many older Americans successfully deal with illness into their 90s, however, I am taking the whole article with a grain of salt. DALE HILL Washita, Okla.
LIFE DURING WARTIME