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

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,343 Ratings  ·  302 Reviews
"Missing Microbes presents a surprisingly clear perspective on a complex problem."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

In Missing Microbes, Dr. Martin Blaser invites us into the wilds of the human microbiome, where for hundreds of thousands of years bacterial and human cells have existed in a peaceful symbiosis that is responsible for the equilibrium and health of our bodies. Now th
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by Picador (first published February 6th 2014)
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Jun 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2014
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
May 07, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David Schwan
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Bastian Greshake Tzovaras
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
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seeing the subtitle of this book, you might think it’s about the overuse of antibiotics which causes diseases immune to every method we have to treat them, especially the practice of giving antibiotics “just in case” and feeding antibiotics to animals (which actually helps them grow faster). In fact, while he does bring those issues up, Blaser is also concerned about an unforeseen effect of antibiotics: they’re killing “good” bacteria, with which we’ve co-evolved and which provide us with advant ...more
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently read another book about this exact same topic.....Microbes. I liked that one, and I liked this one too. This was written in terms that ordinary people without a biology major or an MD after their name can understand.

This topic is thought provoking because it sheds light on things that have been taken for granted regarding present day and future medical care and the new health threats that seem to be popping up. This type of research on microbes is new, and hopefully it will continue
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had a biology teacher in high school who remarked that we, as Americans, think that if a little of something is good, a LOT must be better. (The remark was made in connection with how much we all wanted to fertilize the plants we were growing in his class.)

Antibiotics were truly a miracle when they were developed in the early 1900s. Drugs like sulfa and penicillin saved millions of lives, but it wasn't long before antibiotics were being overused for everything from "just in case" to fattening-
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Dr. Blaser's premise is that we are doing serious damage to our bodies by emphasizing the idea that all bacteria is bad and must be eradicated. He begins by giving the reader a background on how bacteria and humans evolved together. It was dense with science, but still understandable to the average reader. This sets the stage for the exploration of how bacteria, sometimes specific species or strains, work with our bodies to mention normal bodily functions. Modern chronic illnesses are discussed ...more
Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biology-genetics
An excellent analysis of the war between antibiotics and our microbiome. The material was very well-composed; as a microbiologist, I felt comfortable without being bored. I think that someone who isn't in the field would enjoy the book as well thanks to the author's concise explanations of historical and current practice. A cut above most of the pop-science books out there!
Jan 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
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
Keith McGowan
Oct 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical-science
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
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I carelessly picked this book up assuming it was going to be about the way we're breeding superbugs through our overuse -- abuse, in fact -- of antibiotics as growth-promoters in the agriculture industry. In fact, while Blaser -- a very distinguished bacteriologist and specialist in infectious diseases -- does discuss this issue, albeit at less length than I might have liked, the real focus of his book is the way that our overuse of antibiotics in humans, especially infants, is crippling our mic ...more
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
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'
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Edward Sullivan
A fascinating book that links the overuse of antibiotics to the astronomical rise of such chronic health problems as obesity, asthma, diabetes, celiac and Crohn’s diseases, food allergies, and possibly even autism. Blaser will even make you think twice about regularly using hand sanitizer. Accessible, engrossing, and convincing.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. I think the microbiome, especially of the gut is the next major discovery of medical science. We understand so little about it, but it is key to so much of our health. It wouldn't surprise me at all to discover that imbalances in our microbiome is responsible for many chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia and IBS.
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine living in a world where awful diseases are infecting people left and right, but antibiotics won’t kill the bacteria. That is what Dr. Martin Blaser in predicting will happen in the future because people are overusing antibiotics in his book Missing Microbes. We have been using antibiotics since the 1940’s during WWII. They were considered a miracle drug for healing and treating so many soldiers and the average person. People used them for everything, including agriculture. This overuse h ...more
D.R. Oestreicher
Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser describes the latest research and speculations in science's quest to better health. As Blaser is exploring health problems that impact people of all ages and social/economic classes, one might expect him to be a medical super star, but this has not happened...

"We published these ideas and the supporting evidence in ... a well-respected journal, but the article received very little attention--another big yawn."

This book and The Pied Pipers of Autism: How Televis
A book that is clearly written enough that a junior high school student could understand it, and important enough that every citizen should be aware of its message. Blaser uses his groundbreaking research on the possible benefits of Helicobacter pylori as jumping off point to suggest the role of gut microbes (the "microbiome") in asthma, obesity, height differences, autism, and other syndromes of immune resistance, such as IBD. I thought the explanation of the H. pylori research was exciting but ...more
Nancy Kress
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting non-fiction exploration of the microbes within the human body. Part scientific report and part speculation, the book discusses not only the already familiar case against antibiotics as the cause of drug-resistant diseases, but also the roles that digestive microbes might play in obesity, asthma, even height. Blaser focuses particularly on H. pylori, a bacteria that both contributes to stomach cancer and helps prevent esophogeal cancer. Although a little too much given to sweeping ...more
A fascinating book, and one that everyone should read!

Blaser is a good writer, and is easily able to explain everything in easy-to-understand layman's terms. At times it does get a bit dry and technical, but it's still fascinating.

My only concern is that Blaser doesn't offer any advice at the end to help one re-invigorate their own internal microbial system. He ends up with saying that he thinks that science will come up with the answers in a few years - but that doesn't really help anyone right
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-challenge
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!

Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting ideas explained clearly, but lacking any kind of writerly voice. There are very few personal stories to keep the reader's interest, and the ones that do exist are relatively minor and lack detail. All of this (combined with the fact that I'm reading this two years late) leads me to think I would have been better off reading a few select magazine articles rather than this perfectly serviceable but uninspired book.
Travis J.
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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."
Debbie Jacob
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This shocking, precautionary medical tale of the overuse of antibiotics provides a sobering reality about how we are ingesting antibiotics without even being aware of it. Detailed and highly anecdotal, this book shows how the overuse of antibiotics is affecting our health and its dire consequences for the future of our health.
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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:” 5 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.” 3 likes
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