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

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  359 ratings  ·  53 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 gravest
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Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Hill and Wang (first published 2007)
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Tracey
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...more
Michael Connolly
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...more
Brent Neal
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...more
RachelAnne
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
Joel Justiss
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
Emily
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
Jeff
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.
Ali Alyami
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...more
Sepideh
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...more
Michael
Mar 01, 2010 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars 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,...more
Barbara
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
Elizabeth
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
Cyndie
Mar 13, 2013 Cyndie rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Eric
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...more
Brian
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...more
Jaclyn
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
Kathy
Quotable:

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...more
Juli
Apr 20, 2014 Juli marked it as to-read
Recommended by a colleague, B. Hill (PAN).
Julia Craig-muller
I finally finished it. Interesting and necessary. However, from the point of view of a physician, I don't understand why the author thinks it strange that doctors have a hard time not prescribing antibiotics. I try really hard not to prescribe them unnecessarily, and it certainly costs me extra time explaining to patients why they don't "deserve" antibiotics when they feel miserable. I hope this book goes a long way toward educating patients about the proper use of antibiotics. (although I indee...more
Jessica
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.
Alyssa A
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
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.
Austin
An excellent short rundown of the role of bacteria in human health. Sachs covers autoimmune disease, allergies, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the vital role of our normal bacteria colonists. A very readable overview of recent research - accessible without glossing over too much of the underlying science. Will definitely impact my practice and make me think harder about the downside of prescribing antibiotics.
Laura
Jun 20, 2009 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars 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.
Alexis
I really enjoyed the comprehensive approach this book took, as well as how it reviewed the history leading up to our "current" understanding of human flora. Made me want to look up progress on the mentioned studies!
Rae
I have read other books about the bacteria in our lives and they come across as too scary, extreme or dumbed down. This one is just right. Sachs has kept the book readable while giving medically valid and practical information. I was especially enthralled by the sections on newborns, nursing, and birth. Fascinating!
Mary
Not always easy to grasp the concepts but it was a fascinating description of the bacteria that live in our bodies. The good ones that we tolerate and help us, the bad ones that attack us, and what researchers are doing to try to control the bad ones, especially the antibiotic resistant ones.
Jennifer
Another great science book. Its all about the microbe world around us-- and the superbugs that threaten us. I know that I am a scientist but I think (perhaps naively) that anyone could pick up this book and understand it and enjoy it. Its one of the very few science books I highly recommend.
Rochelle
While seemingly non-biased, this book makes an excellent case for the necessity of breastfeeding and vaginal birth. It also makes a good case against Purell and co. It's a little bit frightening, but also exciting to know what is going on in the microscopic universe that inhabits our bodies.
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