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Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues
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Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  832 ratings  ·  156 reviews

A critically important and startling look at the harmful effects of overusing antibiotics, from the field's leading expert

Tracing one scientist’s journey toward understanding the crucial importance of the microbiome, this revolutionary book will take readers to the forefront of trail-blazing research while revealing the damage that overuse of antibiotics is doing to our h

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published February 6th 2014)
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Jan 12, 2015 Wanda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Wanda by: CBC radio
I've been doing a lot of research lately about the inner biome of the human being--all the micro-organisms which share space with us and help to keep us healthy. This book distills a great deal of that information into one coherent volume, which is great.

We have more bacterial cells in and on us than we have body cells. They help us with digestion, hormonal regulation, and immune responses. Without them, we would be hooped. Evidence is accumulating that the use of antibiotics has drastically cha
Tracey Dosch
I am a microbiologist who teaches pre-nursing students, so I read this with informed professional interest. The first half of the book provides a good overview of the relationships we humans have with the microbes who travel with us through life, why some of them make us sick and others keep us healthy, and the problems that have developed through the overuse of antibiotics. The chapter on the acquisition of our personal microbes as infants through the process of birth and breastfeeding was part ...more
David Schwan
An intriguing book. The author gives a broad overview of the microbes that live with all people and the effects of antibiotics on the the human microbiome. The author explains overuse of antibiotics--particularly in children and farm animals. Milk we buy in the grocery story can have measurable levels of Tetracycline and even though we may not think we are taking antibiotics we can be. The author explains the results found in many studies on mice, and the results of studies on humans showing how ...more
This book should be required reading for anyone in the medical profession, parents, and policy makers (especially in agriculture and drug regulation).

In a clear and non-technical way, Blaser--an MD and former head of the Infectious Diseases Society of America--lays out the chilling story of how the unintended consequences of antibiotic use and overuse may be in danger of destroying civilization. That might sound ridiculously overblown, but his case rests on sound science. He likens the changes
Bastian Greshake
While I had to endure microbiology lectures and practical courses during my undergrad studies I never was too interested in it and just rote-learned the Krebs cycle as requested. I pretty much preferred living things that you can more easily observe on a macroscopic level and actually do stuff (i.e. animals. And the irony that I'm now exclusively working in silico, often without ever seeing 'my' organisms isn't lost on me…).

So I'm by no means an expert on any microbes and microbiomes, but by no
WOW. This book was SO right up my alley but is not for every reader (I got a lot of "you're reading what??" Personal stories interwoven with sound science - absolutely fascinating and gives sound hypotheses for why we're seeing the modern plagues in today's society. If you've ever wondered why diabetes, allergies and other autoimmune disorder rates are rising so rapidly and want to go beyond the popular "hygiene hypothesis" I recommend this read! I wish I could start my children's first three ye ...more
Clif Hostetler
Aug 13, 2014 Clif Hostetler marked it as to-read
The following is excerpted from the book, "Missing Microbes" by Martin J. Blaser, MD. Blaser, former chair of medicine at NYU and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He is one of a growing number of medical practitioners and researchers who believe that we are experiencing a growing array of "modern plagues," and that the cause of these plagues is rooted in our "disappearing microbiota":

"Within the past few decades, amid all of [our] medical advances, something has gone terr
This is a fascinating book. It's a fast read - written for a layperson, not an MD or a researcher - and really interesting. Antibiotics are great, life-saving drugs, but they have side effects, some known, some unexpected.

"So on the farm, in our mouse experiments, and in an epidemiological study of human children, there was consistent evidence that early-life exposure to antibiotics could change development leading to larger size and more fat."

If you don't want to read the book, read Jane Brody'
Are We Ready for the Next Crisis?

This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.

The over-prescription of drugs isn’t exactly newsworthy … in fact, I’ll bet you can’t even watch a half-hour show on network television without at least one commercial dedicated to a drug that allows the suffering masses to better endure some miserable malady. Living in a world that promises a solution for every problem seems to have led to the “I-Med” path wer
I received a free ARC edition of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program and would like to thank everyone who made that possible.

I really enjoyed reading this. Some non-fiction and science books can be very dry, technical and boring but this was not one of those. It was very well-written and readable with some personal stories thrown in to illustrate certain points and the science was explained very well without going into unnecessary detail. I found the ideas and theories presented
Keith McGowan
Whatever you are reading now, stop and get your hands on a copy of this book.

Antibiotics were once considered wonder drugs but now have become commonplace. Their overuse has led to concerns about the spread of "superbugs" (MRSA) that antibiotics will not be able to stop.

This author presents his research, albeit primarily on mice, that our overuse of antibiotics as well as C-section births and antiseptics has disrupted our microbiome - the relationship we have with bacteria. Not all bacteria is b
I picked this up because I was actually a subject in one of Dr. Blaser's experiments a few years back when I worked at NYU--the study was about the microbiome of people who do or don't have eczema and I was a control subject, which required me to walk downstairs to his lab every few months and have a grad student swab my elbow, cheek, and knee.

The book was worthwhile but I wish Blaser had put more effort into explaining the science at a deeper level. While he avoids the faux-peppy style I've co
Nicole Mahoney
Interesting ideas and research but conclusions are overblown as the author links every ailment to the microbiome. Do we even know what a "healthy" microbiome looks like or how it changes over time? The book also reads like an autobiography in spots, which is ok, except the author is too boastful and I found it detracted from the book.
Travis J.
Please see my extensive book review of Missing Microbes. I discuss Martin Blaser's hypothesis that the overuse of antibiotics and the “one microbe, one disease” model have diminished the diversity of our gut microbiota and are contributing to our "modern plagues."
I received an advance copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway. I hoped this book would be compelling and educational nonfiction, and I was right! Dr. Blaser's research into "the microbiome" is very interesting. He has a strong, clear writing style-- that is, he was able to explain complex ideas without "talking" over my head. Anything else I say would result in spoilers... I would recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest curiosity about science or medicine. It's fascinating!

The author talks mainly about the overuse of antibiotics in our modern health system.

He isn't necessarily against the use of antibiotics, but would rather that doctors saved the use for more emergency cases. Very similar idea by Nassim Taleb, who says that he only visits the doctors if it's an emergency, otherwise you will get more harm.

Blaser talks about how we evolved with our microbiome and how it not only protects us, but helps us live a healthy life.

He argues that food allergies, diabetes a
This book is essentially three parts: The opening, where the author lays out his case; the middle, where he offers the best evidence he can present to support his hypothesis; the closing, where solutions are offered. The quality of each part is very different. When laying out the case, he does a very good job of explaining his thinking. When offering evidence, he lost me a bit - actually, a lot - because the associations and causations don't seem that clear. With the closing, he shines, because ...more
The premise of this book is that the overuse of antibiotics and the increasing prevalence of Cesarean births may possibly be contributing to the growth of modern maladies ranging from asthma and Type I diabetes to food allergies and childhood obesity. Blaser presents his case in a way that even a person without a strong science background can comprehend. First, he delves into how we came to enter the situation we are in now where antibiotics are over-prescribed. I was surprised to find that 70 t ...more
This is educational and sound scientific writing backed up by solid data that is, in a word, alarming. Perhaps many eye-openers, even for those who consider themselves 'careful' and who seek out organic or 'healthier' food choices.

Most know about the use of antibiotics in factory farmed meat and poultry operations, but... Do you realize that "farmed commercial fish, such as salmon, tilapia, and catfish as well as shellfish like shrimp and lobster are given relatively high doses of antibiotics"?
Chris Demer
This is a very readable book about what we have done to the microbes that inhabit our bodies, and have done so, probably since our evolution from other primates, and before.

The first few chapters provide a background, which covered information that I was familiar with. Namely, that our bodies contain more microbial cells than human cells and these organisms have co-evolved with humans. The vast majority of them do not cause us any harm, and many provide advantages, such as production of vitamin
This book looks at the harm that is being done to the human body by modern medicine, especially by the overuse of antibiotics, one of the greatest health discoveries of the last century.

First of all, if a person is suffering from some major ailment, and antibiotics have been shown to work in the past, then don't hesitate to take them. But, taking antibiotics for every sniffle and sore throat is a terrible idea. Penicillin, for instance, is a broad-spectrum antibiotic. That means that it does not
Breeann Kirby
Everyone needs to read this. Blaser is top in his field and he makes a good argument of where we are headed. The sad part is that everyone who is born now is pretty much screwed.

But also read this by Jonathan Eisen:
"Extinguishing our microbiome? Really? The evidence simply does not support such a claim. I personally think antibiotics may be contributing to messing up the microbiome in many people and that this in turn might be contributing to the increase in a variety of human ailments (e.g., I
Bill Leach

2. Our Microbial Planet
- description of microbes, mostly bacteria, fungi, and viruses
- one way, or commensal, relationships between bacteria - also, symbiotic relationships were both species benefit

3. The Humane Microbome
- each animal carries a collection of many species of microbes that has evolved with it
- many of these microbes are symbionts, providing the host with advantages in metabolism, protection, etc.
- human body has some 30 trillion cells, but hosts some 100 trillion bacterial and fun
This book was an interesting and thought-provoking read. I suggested it to my book group after seeing the author on The Daily Show. After reading the book, I'm interested in learning more about what can be done to stop the over-use of antibiotics, how I can personally limit my exposure, and what can be done to correct the damage.

One thing that strikes me is how we often take the easy path in the present without understanding or acknowledging the future consequences. Like the author, I do think t
Steele Dimmock
I closed this with a greater understanding of how ubiquitous bacteria are on, in and around my body. And that anti-bacterial, isn't necessarily a good thing as there is only a small fraction of bacteria that are dangerous, the vast majority either do nothing or are beneficial in some way. I find myself periodically thinking about all the microbes I house and feed. This book as tempered my fear of bacteria, whilst providing me with a solid reason to wash my hands regularly.

Facts I enjoyed:
* Antib
Pretty compelling book on the microbiome and why we should be alarmed by the overuse and antibiotics and the rise of C-sections. I think the most intriguing story in this book was the one on H. pylori. It was very recently that this bacterium was linked to stomach ulcers and heightened risks for stomach cancer. With rampant antibiotic usage, H. pylori is only found in a fraction of Western populations nowadays. But further research suggests that it is an ancient resident of the human gut and par ...more
The author, an M.D. in the area of microbes and a CDC adviser, did a great service in providing this information for those who are interested in why people are fatter, have more allergies and cancers, and why fertility problems are so common. The cause seems to be the antibiotics in the foods, especially meats and dairy, that we eat. In the U.S., all non-organic meats have antibiotics in them because food animals are fed low level antibiotics so that they will gain weight quickly. Unfortunately ...more
Yulin Zhuang
A clear, level-headed explanation of how the bacteria living in us contribute to our health--and how eliminating them may be harming us.

I think many people take away from this book that antibiotics are bad. The author spends a lot of time talking about antibiotics, but the point is less that antibiotics are bad but that rather bacteria can be good for us. Not having a vibrant mix of bacteria living in us is a compelling theory to explain the rise of obesity, asthma, diabetes, and a host of other
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it has given me much for for thought. I especially appreciated the fact that it made the science very accessible, as opposed to some books that use a LOT of jargon. Or perhaps this book does, too, but I've just spent too much time reading about the microbiome to notice. ;) A few points of interest for me:

** USDA organic apples and pears (at least at the time this book was published; I will need to dig around to see if it is still the case) can be treated by st
2.5 Stars

Blaser presents a lot of interesting ideas and new research about the microbiome. His basic theory is that the overuse of antibiotics is radically changing the microbiome and is leading to an increase in the number of diseases like asthma, obesity, and diabetes. It's interesting research, and will be fascinating to watch unfold over the coming years.

However, Blaser made a lot of inflammatory claims and suggestions. In particular, he attacks C-sections and suggests that waivers should in
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Martin J. Blaser MD has studied the role of bacteria in human disease for more than thirty years. He is the director of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University, served as the chair of medicine at NYU and as the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and has had major advisory roles at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. He co-founded the Bellevue Literary Review a ...more
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“Today, an estimated 70–80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used for the single purpose of fattening up farm animals:” 2 likes
“As long as amoxicillin is given to our children who have pneumococci in their noses and throats, whether harmless or not, antibiotic resistance is inevitable.” 1 likes
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