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Revenge of the Microbes: How Bacterial Resistance Is Undermining the Antibiotic Miracle

Authors: Abigail A. Salyers1, Dixie D. Whitt1
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Affiliations: 1: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois
Content Type: Trade
Format: Electronic, Paperback
Publication Year: 2005

Category: General Interest; Bacterial Pathogenesis

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“What is antibiotic resistance, and why should I be concerned with it?” Media coverage and political and scientific discussions about “superbugs” that defy our current treatments, genetically-modified foods in our fields and grocery stores, the threat of bioterrorism, and the use of antibiotics in agriculture have increased citizen awareness and fears regarding the issues surrounding antibiotic resistance. is a single source of answers to this and other questions average people are asking.

Written by experts with extensive experience in the field, provides the scientific information readers will need to form opinions and make informed decisions regarding the use of antibiotics. The authors have carefully sifted through a vast amount of information to ensure comprehensive coverage of topics including the larger issues of economics, politics, health, safety, and the environment. Specific antibiotics and controversies are examined in a real-life context; accounts of positions on all sides of the public policy debate are presented; and less common issues such as what happens to antibiotics once they are released into the environment, are addressed. The evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is put into perspective and bacterial mutation and horizontal gene transfer are explained in simple terms. An in-depth documentation of antibiotic structures is provided in the appendix.

Reader-friendly and comprehensible, will engage a diverse audience, including biologists, doctors, teachers, students, lawyers, environmentalists, and everyday citizens. This new volume encourages readers to consider the extensive role of antibiotics in modern medicine and the potentially catastrophic impact the loss of effective antibiotics would have today and on future generations.

There are no separately available contributors for this publication.

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Doody Enterprises

27 June 2013

At A Glance

Written by experts with extensive experience in the field, Revenge of the Microbes provides the scientific information readers will need to form opinions and make informed decisions regarding the use of antibiotics. The authors have carefully sifted through a vast amount of information to ensure comprehensive coverage of topics including the larger issues of economics, politics, health, safety, and the environment. Specific antibiotics and controversies are examined in a real-life context; accounts of positions on all sides of the public policy debate are presented; and less common issues such as what happens to antibiotics once they are released into the environment, are addressed. Reader-friendly and comprehensible, this book will engage a diverse audience, including biologists, doctors, teachers, students, lawyers, environmentalists, and everyday citizens.

Description

This book explains to a nonscientist audience antimicrobial resistance and why it is a serious threat to human health. Although it is a fairly easy read, even for those with little or no microbiology experience, it does not oversimplify or slip into inaccurate overgeneralizations, as many popular science books do.

Purpose

Drs. Salyers and Whitt aim to explain the basics of antibacterial resistance to nonscientists, so that they will understand why one should not take penicillin for the flu, for instance, or insist upon antibacterial soaps. Since the future of antibiotics depends on millions of individuals making informed decisions about antibiotic use, this book could not be more needed. The conversational writing style helps the authors meet this objective, by being emphatic without being preachy.

Audience

The book is clearly aimed at the nonscientist. But it is an excellent supplemental text for an undergraduate microbiology course, or even an introductory college biology course. The authors do an excellent job discussing the social and economic reasons why antibiotics are used in the way they are today, even though we know that such usage will likely lead to antibiotics' early obsolescence. This helps college biology students to understand how microbiology affects their everyday lives, and how political or economic decisions can affect human health. Further, the book does a great job of explaining, in easy-to-understand language, bacterial genetics, metabolism and evolution, making it a handy companion to (often, too jargon-y) microbiology textbooks. I have added this as a required text for the introductory college microbiology courses I teach for this reason.

Features

The best thing about this book is its breezy, conversational writing style that still does not sacrifice scientific accuracy. A close second is its thoughtful discussion of social and economic factors contributing to the overuse of antibiotics. Thought-provoking discussion questions (my favorite: Should county X be charged with bioterrorism for using drugs in such a way that led to the emergence of a completely drug-resistant TB strain?) keep readers considering what they've read long after they put the book down. As a microbiologist with an interest in antibiotic resistance, I still found myself having many gee-whiz moments. (tetQ gene transfer is actually induced by tetracycline itself [p. 105]? Cool.) More attention might have been paid to fitness landscapes, and the fact that bacteria won't inevitably evolve towards antibiotic susceptibility again if we stop using antibiotics. Too many people have this comforting view -- that resistance to drugs necessarily makes bacteria less fit -- and it would have been nice for the authors to address this more thoroughly than they did here.

Assessment

I am recommending Revenge of the Microbes to all my nonmicrobiologist friends, and requiring it of all my microbiology students. I only wish this book were better known, and more widely publicized, so that more people would read it. This is an important book that addresses an important topic, without ever seeming pedantic or stuffy. It is also reasonably priced for a trade paperback, and downright cheap for a college textbook. Overall, this is a fantastic value for the money.

Doody Enterprises

Reviewer: Rachel Robson, B.S., PhD (ABD) (Doane College)

Review Date: Unknown

©Doody’s Review Service

Microbiology Today

26 June 2013

This is an excellent book on a topical subject, written by authors whose prose style combines detailed information and humour, the end product being a thoroughly enjoyable read. The authors state that their intended audience was the general public, but that they didn't wish to exclude scientists. Despite setting themselves an inherently difficult task, they have achieved their aim. The book conveys information on how antimicrobial agents work and how micro-organisms develop resistance, in a way that is likely be understood by readers with or without grounding in microbiology. Importantly, the book's message is honest in admitting we don't have all the answers to the problem of resistance (be they medical, scientific, social or political). Indeed, each chapter ends with a collection of 'issues to ponder'. We regularly hear in the tabloids about the relentless march of superbugs. If you really want to understand what's happening, I recommend you buy this book.

Society for General Microbiology: Microbiology Today

Reviewer: Alan Johnson, HPA Colindale

Review Date: Unknown

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