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Medical Advances In Retrospect

Giant leaps in science and public health have achieved cures for disease, transplants of human tissue and even correction of the body's defects from within its genetic code.

We're living longer due to this century's medical breakthroughs. To celebrate that, The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy has created a centennial edition that looks at the top 100 medical advances of the 20th century.

Dr. Richard Berkow, the editor-in-chief since 1974, discusses the top five medical breakthroughs on The Early Show.

The Merck manual is the oldest book in the English language for medicine, says Dr. Berkow, adding the top 100 list includes life-saving, life-extending and quality-of-life improving advances in medicine.

The following are the top five from the list.

1. Control of infectious disease: Infectious disease had been the most common cause of death. Now life expectancy has increased due to antibiotics, improved public health and sanitation, and understanding of the immune system.
2. Mass immunization campaigns: Viral diseases like small pox, polio and measles have been controlled and even eradicated.
3. Vitamins: In 1906, scientists first identified substances in foods, later called vitamins, that are essential to life and the prevention of disease.
4. Cardiovascular risk factors: Death rates from cardiovascular disease have plummeted in the last 50 years, in large part thanks to more than 5,000 adults who, since 1948, have participated in one of the most important epidemiological studies ever: the Framingham Heart Study.
5. Rational drug design: Common early drugs were synthesized from herbal remedies known for centuries. Now researchers create molecules that target specific receptors. We have more effective drugs with fewer side effects.
Source: The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy
"It's been almost a half a century since I've been in medical school, and when I look back at the advancements from then tnow, what really blows me away is now we can diagnose and treat diseases so much more efficiently than we did a 100 years ago," says Dr. Berkow.

"We can do more God-like things, but our feet are like clay," he says.

"We've paid a price for technology, with a loss of interpersonal caring and contact with our patients. There is an unfortunate distrust between doctor and patient at this point in time, " he adds.

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