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Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  815 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
Making Peace with Microbes

Public sanitation and antibiotic drugs have brought about historic increases in the human life span; they have also unintentionally produced new health crises by disrupting the intimate, age-old balance between humans and the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies and our environment. As a result, antibiotic resistance now ranks among the graves
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Hill and Wang (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

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Feb 07, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
What a fantastic book to read while sick! When I started Good Germs, Bad Germs, I had just come down with a respiratory tract infection, and by the time I finished it I had succumbed to a feisty gastrointestinal virus, along with the majority of my family. I lay in bed, imagining staphylococcus aureus leaving its "sweet spot" in my nose and dripping down into my lungs, where it could colonize and cause pneumonia. I noted my bad breath and imagined the streptococcus mutans lining up shoulder to s ...more
Apr 01, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
We truly live in a bacterial world. They live in the soil on which we walk, they swim in the water we drink, and they even float on particles of dust in the air we breathe. And for every human cell in our own bodies, there are ten bacterial cells, on our skin, in our upper respiratory tract, and all throughout our gastrointestinal tract, making up the human microbiome. Not only are these bacteria harmless to us, they’re actually healthy for us: industrial agrobusiness raises their animals on ant ...more
Mar 17, 2010 Tracey rated it really liked it
Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World, by Jessica Snyder Sachs, is an exploration of humans' interactions with bacteria throughout time with an emphasis on modern history and developments of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, such as the widespread use of antibiotics in people and animals for both therapeutic and non-therapeutive, or preventative, measures.

The book's prologue begins with a narrative about Ricky Lannetti and his battle with antibiotic resistant MR
Jul 21, 2009 Jeff rated it really liked it
Very readable review of the field of microbiology focused on the bugs that live inside us humans. Loved the first half which taught me a lot of fascinating biology. The second half is more a review of current biotech efforts to battle antibiotic resistance and was somewhat choppy. The book also could use a set of color plates to show us pictures of these bugs. But I loved reading this, even on vacation (where I usually prefer fiction), it was a compelling story.
Anatoly v01
Наконец-то нашел книжку, где нормально написано и про устойчивые к антибиотикам инфекции, и про про то, что аллергии и прочие аутоимунные у людей развились от чрезмерной чистоты, и другие темы.
Mar 01, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a book every human alive should read. Yup, I feel that strongly about it. It is an enlightening read that makes one appreciate the complex mechanisms of the human immune system as well as the ongoing relationships humans have with bacteria. The book reads easily, with real-world anecdotes setting up each chapter's examination of how science has revealed the problems and potential solutions to varying issues.

The book essentially examines humans' relationship with the bacterial world past,
May 11, 2009 Sepideh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medical
This book is all about bacteria and how we are getting super strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. It mentions how bacteria easily transmit certain functionality to one another through the little loops of DNA known as plasmids. There were a couple of other methods of DNA exchange that I forget. The book described the difference between gram-positive and gram-negative. It has to do with whether the bacteria has a hard cell wall, I think.

The book spent a long time discussing probi
Sep 02, 2010 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an essential read if you've ever taken an antibiotic. Jessica Sachs is a freelance scientific writer and she makes complex science understandable to a lay person. I can't remember all the bio tech companies or the names of specific bacteria but I can remember microflora, antibiotics and probiotics. The overall gist of this research addresses a world of over-use of antibiotics, resistant bacteria, and ways science is addressing the problem. To sum it up, all of us are a living system with ...more
Brent Neal
Jan 01, 2011 Brent Neal rated it it was amazing
This book is a very well researched and well written guide to our hubris as a species. Sachs lays out how our war against microbes has turned out to be more damaging to us than it has been to the microbes that we were fighting. She then explains in detail how a growing cadre of scientists are learning how to work with microbes to prevent and cure disease, rather than trying to eradicate them.

There is probably a great allegory in the book about how it is better to use an enemy's strength against
Joel Justiss
Feb 07, 2009 Joel Justiss rated it it was ok
Shelves: public-health
Sachs focuses on the use of antibiotics, probiotics, and related techniques to treat bacterial diseases. I was a little disappointed, because I was hoping for a broader-scale discussion of the ecological roles of bacteria in general. It was interesting, nevertheless, to read about probiotics (the administration of beneficial or harmless bacteria to inhibit the growth of harmful species), genetic manipulation, and other new techniques. Much of what Sachs reports is research and experimental treat ...more
May 18, 2009 RachelAnne rated it it was amazing
I keep hoping that in some incarnation, Walt Whitman is aware of this book. The composer of "Song of Myself" really ought to bliss out over the idea that he was additionally a vast biome of complexly interlinked microbial life. The fascinating intricacies of microbial research are supplemented by heart-thumping urgency forced by growing antibiotic resistance and the very real threat of looming drug-resistant disease epidemics. All this throws into even greater relief the wonders of the long-unno ...more
Apr 07, 2011 Jaclyn rated it really liked it
This book wasn't nearly as user-friendly as the last book I read on the topic (The Rising Plague). I might even warn that those without a scientific background may get lost frequently. I studied Neuroscience and I found myself re-reading sections on occasion due confusing language or inadequate descriptions and background, or even just convoluted organization. However, despite the author's more complicated, less straightforward writing, this book provided much more of a well-rounded look at all ...more
Jul 05, 2010 Jessica rated it really liked it
This was a very well-written and not-too-technical science book. It brings in a human element and does a great job explaining antibiotic resistance. The theory that over-sanitation has led to an increase in allergies and auto-immune disease was well-argued and I think there is probably some truth to it. It was fascinating reading about some of the new probiotic treatments and other alternative medicine that is cropping up in an effort to combat antibiotic resistance.
Mar 06, 2015 Dеnnis rated it it was amazing
First book on germs and microbes we live with that is not freaking the ghost out of you from the onset. Rich with newest data, but also provides a very nice and brief introduction into the history of microbes hunt. Accessible, enlightening and outlook expanding.
Angela Boord
Oct 29, 2014 Angela Boord rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-writing
Since this book was written seven years ago, the information in it undoubtedly needs to be updated, but it is also depressing to realize how much remains the same: doctors are still over-prescribing antibiotics and the use of probiotics to treat (or prevent) disease is still considered fringe for the most part (although I think that everybody now knows that the bacteria in yogurt will help your digestive system, thanks to those Activa commercials.) And nowhere have I heard that probiotics will h ...more
Ida Aalen
Mar 11, 2016 Ida Aalen rated it liked it
Boken begynte begynte veldig, veldig bra. Veldig finn innføring i hvordan man har sett på bakterier, antibiotika og probiotikia gjennom medisinens historie, hvordan det hele henger sammen med antibiotikaresistens, allergier, etcetera. Masse fotnoter og konkrete referanser - jeg stoler på forfatteren - og lærte masse. Detaljert og nerdete.

Men de siste delene, som forsøker å peke ut hva som kan skje i fremtiden, ble rett og slett kjedelige. Uprioritert og hoppet veldig fra det ene til det andre, o
Alyssa A
Jan 12, 2013 Alyssa A rated it it was amazing
Awesome. Really interesting stuff--presents a whole new perspective on how we deal with bacteria in a world where cleaning products boast of killing 99.9% of germs. "Good Germs, Bad Germs" presents the idea that killing 99.9% of germs may actually be a bad idea--a large percent of these germs are actually beneficial to us, and focusing more on harmony and balance between good and bad germs might need to be our new tactic in the battle against microbial disease.
Jessica McReaderpants
Jul 13, 2012 Jessica McReaderpants rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing and highly interesting book. It explaines the why of antibiotic resistance and the science behibd it. Very interesting and extremely pertinent for Anyone, esp young doctors and nurses. Itgoest into phages, reverse vaccine construction, probiotics, etc. i cannot say how very intreiging this informaion is. I superduper enjoyed this and give it the elusive 5 stars that it totally deserves.
Jun 04, 2014 Sue rated it really liked it
WOW, I had no idea. Sometimes I just enjoy a book that smartens me up.

I loved the case histories, like the two she began with. I wish she could write a book, with 100 case histories, to illustrate the issues like she did here: short, sweet and to-the-point.

Didn't much care for the clinical aspect and it really bogged the book down, when compared to the juicy case histories. I would have to say that MRSA was the star of this book. MRSA: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus.
Jun 20, 2009 Laura rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: non-fiction, medicine
I learned a great deal from this book. And to my surprise, I found that I was less afraid of germs, not more, when I finished. I was particularly intrigued by the discussion of probiotics and the interactions of bacterial populations with the human immune system. I also was fascinated by plasmids and the process of horizontal gene transfer between even unrelated bacteria.
Oct 20, 2016 Daniela rated it it was amazing
A college professor in genetics recommended this book to our class, specifically because we were discussing antibiotic resistance. The content is informative and evidence-based, but strikes a good balance and stays interesting. I thought this book was extremely well-written and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in biology or microbiology.
Nov 22, 2012 Ali rated it really liked it
This book was assigned as a microbiology class reading. Now that I finished it, I can say it was the perfect candidate.

Bacterial and fungal diseases had been wiping out people until the later half of the 19th century with the constitution of "Germ Theory" by the highly-intelligent, Louis Pasteur, who finally solved the puzzle and established the link between many diseases and their "causing seeds". This work was further amplified and carried out by other great scientists such as the Nobel Laure
Mar 06, 2016 Stuart rated it really liked it
This book surprised me, I thought it would be quite an easy book to read, heavy on the narrative with a sprinkling of depth of detail, quite the opposite but we will get to that...

J.S. Sachs has written a informative, wide perspective account of the ins and outs of the world of bacteria, antibiotics, microbes, microflora and viruses.

J.S.S starts with some narrative about patients and their struggles which are meaningful and showcase the type of information this book will share with the reader. F
Michael Connolly
Mar 07, 2012 Michael Connolly rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, biology
Good Germs Protect Us From Bad Germs:
The good germs that live in and on us protect us from the bad germs, similarly to the way good plants in a garden help prevent weeds from growing. The good germs use up the nutrients so that they are not available to the bad germs. They also change the chemistry of their environment, making it inhospitable to pathogens. Babies initially acquire symbiotic bacteria from their mothers, at birth and when nursing, and later when they inhale air containing bacteria
Feb 20, 2016 Beth rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've read about the complicated relationship between humankind and microorganisms, both friend and foe. As a microbiologist, it's hard for me to judge if a layperson would find this book easy to understand, but I found it explained even complicated concepts well (and often with humor).

The intricate balance between the bacteria that colonize us and our immune system is almost mind-boggling. The ability of bacteria to adapt and survive almost whatever we throw at the
Cole Williams
Sep 04, 2016 Cole Williams rated it liked it

A proponent of revolutionizing the way humans approach the relationship to bacteria, vying for a super-organism view of ourselves as we live in concert with our microflora, Good Germs, Bad Germs offers a chronological history of humanity's concept, knowledge and relation to bacteria throughout history in a very researched and scientific way.

If you wonder where the increase in autoimmune disease is partially stemming from, if you want to learn more about chronic inflammation to resistant bacteri
Apr 28, 2008 Eric rated it really liked it
An excellent book on the history of human microbiology and the ramificaitons of medical science on the life and wellbeing of not only we humans, but also of the critters who we live with on a daily basis.

Sachs does a good job in attempting to reduce the scientific background needed to understand the complex chemical and biological processes that sum up the interrelationships of bacteria and our body's systems.

Her use of current scholarship and portraying a wide range of therapeutic treatments is
Mar 13, 2013 Cyndie rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cyndie by: Goodreads
Shelves: animal-vet-books
This book provides a history of how we came to understand that germs cause infectious disease, how we have combatted them, and what the unintended consequences of our actions have been (resistant organisms and a hyper-active immune system that without anything to fight, turns on us).

Ms. Sachs asserts that given the improvements in quality and quantity of life during this process, going backwards to unsanitary conditions or forgoing antibiotics, vaccines, and other medical treatments are not rea
Nov 12, 2008 Brian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was great. It really opens your eyes about our relationship with germs and how we fit together. One truism that I will always remember from this books is the line "In evolution, that which is unavoidable becomes indispensable".

Another thing I learned from this book is the prevalence of treatments for disease that are not pursued because they are not patentable. A drug company would have to incur the costs of clinical trials and FDA approval, but would not be able to patent the treatmen
Sep 13, 2013 Kathy rated it really liked it

If you could bell up the skin's 100 billion or so resident bacteria, they would fit inside a medium-size pea. By contrast, the 15 trillion-odd bacteria cells lining an empty digestive tract would fill a ten-ounce soup can to overflowing. to this total add upward of 100 trillion bacteria massed and ready to evacuate inside a typical bowel movement.

Several recent studies have confirmed... the more infections a person experiences, the greater the likelihood of arthritis, heart disease, s
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Jessica Snyder Sachs is a contributing editor to Popular Science and writes regularly for Discover, National Wildlife, Health, Parenting, and other national publications. Prior to becoming a full-time freelance writer in 1991, she was the managing editor of Science Digest.

As an adjunct professor, Jessica teaches feature writing and writing for magazines, most recently at Seton Hall University. Sh
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“The 2003 flu season started early in North America, with the first cases showing up in the fall. By Thanksgiving doctors were seeing the usual flu-related pneumonias. As always, the most severe cases resulted from secondary bacterial infections in flu-congested lungs.” 0 likes
“issuing marching orders to fat cells in the mouse’s abdomen.48 Specifically, they found that B. theta stopped the production of a fat-suppressing” 0 likes
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