Crohn’s. Lupus. Autism. ADHD. Food allergies. Celiac disease. Sjögren’s syndrome. Polymyalgia rheumatica. Multiple sclerosis. Anklyosing spondylitis. Type 1 diabetes. Vasculitis. Peripheral neuropathy. The list goes on, and on, and on. We are being increasingly diagnosed with these conditions and diseases of unknown origin, and science has very little to say – why would autoimmune diseases and mysterious diseases of inflammation be so prevalent? When did this increase start?
As an observer and participant in modern biomedical research, and a lover of deep history, I tend to focus not on the immediate or last few years, but look for trends of accumulating risk over longer periods of time. Seeking an answer to the question of “when”, I used Pubmed to estimate, per yer, the number of studies and papers discussing diseases and conditions of unknown origin. I search for the term “unknown causes”, and also for the term “journal” to get some idea of the percentage of studies, papers and editorials discussing disease of unknown causes. I had no idea what to expect.
Looking at a trend of topics per year, one has to correct for some estimate of the total number of articles published, because a mere count would, in part, reflect the overall trend in the explosion of total articles published. I chose as my control term the word “journal”, because many titles of publications include that term (e.g., “Journal of Nephrology). Here is the control result, which is not surprising, and completely expected:
Again, this merely reflects the trend in the increase in publications in Pubmed, and so using it would provide a relative control for that trend.
Next I searched for “Unknown Causes”, and calculated the number of articles citing unknown causes per 10,000 articles (again, relative denominator term).