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Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  676 ratings  ·  157 reviews
This is the story of a killer that has been striking people down for thousands of years: tuberculosis. After centuries of ineffective treatments, the microorganism that causes TB was identified, and the cure was thought to be within reach—but drug-resistant varieties continue to plague and panic the human race.

The “biography” of this deadly germ, an account of the diagnosi
Kindle Edition, 160 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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Ms. Yingling
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
As a teacher, one of the things I have to do to keep my certification current is to make sure I don't have tuberculosis. Surly Teen Boy has to have a TB test before he headed off to the Philippines. In the back of my mind, I always thought this was a tiny bit silly, until I remember that in 1972, the art teacher in my elementary school was diagnosed with TB and the ENTIRE school population had to stand in line to get a tine test, around which the nurse drew a bunny rabbit that was not supposed t ...more
Jim Erekson
May 08, 2013 rated it liked it
The best thing about this story is that while it is topical, Murphy found the narrative thread and followed it. The question of resistance to antibiotics is the big finish this story is all leading toward. He builds up TB as a 'character' almost, that gains depth without being anthropomorphized or trivialized in the process.

It's always shocking to me how recently we are talking about people not believing in 'germ theory' as the great explanation of major diseases. Even fewer than 100 years ago,
Did you know that all five Bronte sisters, along with their mother and brother, died of tuberculosis? The body-destroying disease is known to have afflicted Homo erectus, an ancestor of modern humans. Easily spread through coughing, sneezing and even breathing, the disease had no effective treatments until the mid-20th century. For about 40 years, it was all but defeated. Then the bacteria that cause the disease began to become drug-resistant. The AIDS epidemic and countries that refuse to follo ...more
Aug 15, 2012 rated it liked it
It seems weird to say how much I enjoyed this account of a deadly disease, but I really did. It is well-written, engaging, and full of interesting black and white photos. Students could easily use it to write a report, but it is also a good choice for non-fiction readers interested in disease and how it impacts society (for example, in the early 20th century many private and public sanatoriums refused to treat the poor, Native-Americans, or African-Americans). Tuberculosis is a particularly inte ...more
Edward Sullivan
An excellent "biography" of the dreaded disease told from the perspectives of both science and social history. Not as gripping a narrative as An American Plague but still quite fascinating.
Tracy Miller
Sep 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens, 2012
Interesting book. I didn't really realize the impact of tuberculosis throughout history. Very readable account.
Having seen TB on many death certificates while researching, I was interested in knowing more about how the disease manifests and was treated.

I didn't realize this book was written on a junior high level, and so doesn't go quite as much into the science as I wanted. Still, it's very well written, and it is very informative. Not only does it cover the basic history of the disease, but it speaks frankly of the challenges for minorities and the poor not just to get treatment, but in getting traini
Kim Bahr
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting read since this has a personal connection
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book caught my eye when I wrapped it (put the protective plastic cover on it which is found on many library books) for the junior high library. Perhaps it was the unusual cover or perhaps the subject. A book on tuberculosis? Hmm.

Everything I read was a surprise. I admit that I knew nothing about tuberculosis and am even more surprised when I realize that I don't see a vaccine for it on my kids shot records. I see there is a spot to test to see if you have tested positive for TB on the back
Janet Frost
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Jim Murphy is such an expert at researching and presenting fascinating topics at the middle grade level. He captured me again with this one. I must admit the nurse in me was very intrigued by the topic of Tuberculosis. You cannot be in the medical field and not have had some kind of exposure to TB and its history. In spite of my medical background, there was so much information I never knew in this book. In the Author's Note, he explains that they attempted to tell the story ...more
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
In Invincible Microbe, Jim Murphy and his wife Alison Blank chronicle the history of one of the greatest killers in world history: tuberculosis. They trace TB back to microorganisms in African soil and water 3 million years ago and follow it to the frightening drug-resistant strains of the disease that threaten us today. Along the way, they explain how TB attacks the body, how it is spread, and the bizarre attempts throughout history of treating the disease. Murphy and Blank make excellent use ...more
Valerie McEnroe
This is a disappointing book by one of my favorite nonfiction writers. It's written in typical textbook fashion rather than the narrative style I have come to expect from Murphy. It covers the history of tuberculosis from ancient to modern times.

Most of the book covers the late 1800s through World War I when great efforts were made to find a cure. Hundreds of sanatoriums were built around the country to get infected individuals away from the cities and into the fresh air of the countryside. It
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
From the days of homo erectus, tuberculosis has been a fatal disease for humans whose attempts at cures were often painful and harmful, and have led to today's super-resistant microorganism strains. A straight-forward, clearly written history of a disease with the kinds of details that keep readers fascinated. Lots of black-and-white illustrations emphasize the world-wide nature of this plague, its place in history, and the various efforts to treat it. Along the way Murphy manages to weave in ex ...more
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love these books that don't overwhelm me with facts but yet give an accurate history of events. This book was an enlightening look at the progression of the Tuberculosis infection and how it progressed through time. The additional pictures and trivial information really made this book engaging and I would highly recommend it if you just want to know about it or if you are doing a report on the subject. The book is geared toward junior high and lower high school readers but I am okay with that! ...more
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Here is the best book you never knew you wanted to read. Yes, I just read an entire book about nothing but tuberculosis and rated it five stars. Such is the magic of the invincible Jim Murphy. Absolutely the most interesting and engaging book on the subject you will ever read, ever.
Mar 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, medical
I read this at the beginning of the insanity attached to COVID-19 in Australia. When toilet paper was being hoarded and people were just generally going nuts. And it kind of felt like a really good time to read about a microbe based disease. Alright, there are a lot of differences between TB and Corona, but there were also SO many similarities!

I do have a background in biology (although I focus on environmental biology), so my basic understanding of diseases such as TB and others is fairly sound
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoy Jim Murphy’s nonfiction books (The Great Fire, Truce, An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic), but this one was my favorite!

Tuberculosis has definitely been romanticized in stories and movies, and I always thought it was more of a disease of the past. I have had TB tests done for school, but was never really concerned. In my mind, only people who lived before WWII or who lived in very poor countries could get it.

Wrong! TB has evolved ove
Excellent nonfiction for young readers about the history of tuberculosis. I recently became interested in tuberculosis while doing some genealogy research. I learned about several relatives who died of the disease in the early 1900's. Two that I know of died in sanatoriums. The images and stories of sufferers in this book were particularly poignant to me because of this personal connection.

Murphy shows how horrible the diagnosis was throughout most of history. He relates about the frantic search
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Please note the word "Never-Ending" in the title. Before reading this overview of the history of tuberculosis and the many attempts to find a cure I had no idea that this disease is still proving to be an enigma to scientists and the medical world.

The disease is airborne and virulent, keeping a pace ahead of the antibiotics that have proven to be effective against it. Most of Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and parts of Central and South America are still hot spots for the spread of this killer of
Heather O'Neill
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book delves into the history of Tuberculosis and finding a cure. It continues with how it is currently as of the book's publishing in 2012.

My 6th grader and I were reading this book as part of his science for homeschool. I thought that the book was really interesting and I learned so much about Tuberculosis that I didn't know before. I didn't find the writing dry at all and actually wanted to read the book. My son, who is a bit squeamish with medical stuff, found some parts hard to read abo
Nicole Perkins
Jun 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This was another young adult book, younger, really, but I learned facts about TB that I didn't know. I was always under the impression that TB was a disease of the lungs; apparently it is possible to contract a centralized variation of it. My grandfather's sister died of TB while still a young woman; he always said she had it "in her side." Having read this book, now I understand what he meant, and my great-aunt probably had TB in her liver or kidneys. It's amazing that no one else in my grandfa ...more
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: juvenile, nonfiction
Did you know that to treat tuberculosis they used to purposely deflate people's lungs? Over and over again? And that Betty MacDonald, the author of the "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" series, had TB and spent time in a sanitarium? Fascinating and scary, especially the account of the new XDR strain of TB and the bit about the Russian prisoners.
Sep 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This book has been on my list....and my library shelf....for a long time. I have been tested for TB when I started working at a public school. I knew it affected the lungs and use to be called consumption. This was the extent of my knowledge. This book filled in LOTS of gaps. Interesting for sure. Not sure I need it in an elementary library.
Erin Puskas
This nonfiction book discusses the disease of tuberculosis in every light possible. Reading it made you want to learn more and more about TB. I thought that it was obviously very carefully researched and analyzed, and I actually found this text intriguing!
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Coronavirus lock in assignment for my 13 yr old, but I found myself reading it as well. From the sanatoriums in the Adirondacks to XDR-TB to Russian prisons, it is all here. Well written, well presented, great photos and timely subject.
Richie Partington
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Richie’s Picks: INVINCIBLE MICROBE: TUBERCULOSIS AND THE NEVER-ENDING SEARCH FOR A CURE by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank, Clarion, July 2012, 160p., ISBN: 978-0-618-53574-3

“So open up the window and let me breathe
I said, open up the window and let me breathe
I’m looking down to the street below
Lord, I cried for you, I cried, oh, Lord.”
--Van Morrison, “T.B. Sheets”

“To Beverly, fires and tight rooms were like a death sentence. If the open air were not blowing past her face she felt as if she couldn’
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent first read for any student from 6th to 9th grade. This book contains an excellent bibliography with notes.
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a very fascinating read. TB was prevalent until streptomycin was found to cure it. Before then by the time a person had symptoms it was to late, but not always.
Oct 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I like how the authors made it sound like TB was this living breathing antagonist. Like the evil mustache guy out the end the world because he doesn't like it.
Alyssa Wood
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Awesome! Loved how much information was in here, I'm the type of person who loves to know as much as I can about a topic so this was super fun.
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An American author of more than 35 nonfiction and fiction books for children, young adults, and general audiences, including more than 30 about American history. He won the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 2010 for his contribution in writing for teens. Jim lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, in a hundred-year-old house with his wife Alison Blank, a children’s TV produce ...more

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