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Catching Breath: The Making and Unmaking of Tuberculosis
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Catching Breath: The Making and Unmaking of Tuberculosis

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  153 ratings  ·  38 reviews
With more than a million victims every year--more than any other disease, including malaria--and antibiotic resistance now found in every country worldwide, tuberculosis is once again proving itself to be one of the smartest killers that humanity has ever faced. But it’s hardly surprising considering how long it’s had to hone its skills. Forty-thousand years ago, our ances ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 9th 2017 by Bloomsbury Sigma (first published June 15th 2017)
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Montzalee Wittmann
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Catching Breath: The Making and Unmaking of Tuberculosis by Kathryn Lougheed is a book that I was able to get from NetGalley and thank you so much! I enjoyed this fascinating book greatly. The writing was full of great info and written with a fun witty style that kept the would-be boring info light, refreshing, and constantly a joy to read. It had lots of history on the dreaded disease of how it was transferred and by who and what. Animals could transfer the disease and the author discusses time ...more
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Or mostly the making of it, since unmaking it has been so far beyond human powers.

If you think of TB as something that happens to other people, in other countries, or even only in the past, then this is a necessary corrective. It highlights the disease burden borne in particular countries (usually where poverty and poor nutrition support it), among particular groups (refugees finding it hard to access care; homeless people in London) and in people already suffering reduced immune function (peopl
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
4.5 stars. I was watching Penny Dreadful, and while the demonic possession and various supernatural shenanigans were highly entertaining indeed, my main take-away from it apparently was "I want to learn more about tuberculosis." Yeah, IDK. I'm weird, ok.

Thankfully Kathryn Lougheed, TB research badass and overall dry-humoured, witty, pop-culture-referencing, relatable person of excellence, had my back with this book. It's comprehensive and fascinating (the landmine-detecting, TB-sniffing giant H
William Schram
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Catching Breath by Kathryn Lougheed is the story of Tuberculosis, one of our oldest foes. While I am somewhat familiar with TB, it is not really a disease that is on our radars as something terribly dangerous at the present time. Dr. Lougheed begins by discussing the history of Tuberculosis and how it is entwined with the development of the human race. Trying to plumb the depths of history for DNA and other telltale signs of infection is really hard, but given the correct conditions, it is possi ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Honestly this was FASCINATING.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book to read. I was so excited to have received this through the Giveaway! ( I've entered thousands of times and finally won!). I'm in the healthcare industry and it was really refreshing to read heavy material in a light hearted way with sarcastic humor built in. After finishing the book, it made me want to hang out with Kathryn Lougheed! Great information written in an easily digestible manner. I wish all books like this were written in this style. ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome medical history book

I loved the explanation of how tuberculosis treatment has changed throughout history. The author described the issues of treating tuberculosis very concisely.
Kyle Wendy Skultety (
This review originally appeared on my blog at
Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the research and science are excellent and multilayered. You can easily discern the love the author has for tuberculosis and how to contain it. On the other hand, some of her attempts at humor and lightening the mood seemed out of place to me. A reader who is not familiar with pop culture may find some of her sentences confusing – such as:

Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You can read the full review on my pointless Tumblr!

Tuberculosis is my thing. Seriously. It's a topic that my brain latched onto, despite the fact that I am not a scientist, not all that great at science in general, and have zero personal connections with the disease. I just love to read about it. So when I came across this book on Netgalley, I immediately had to request it. And, being the nerd I am, I loved it. Not that I'm biased or anything...

What I enjoyed most about Lougheed's book is tha
I wanted to like this book, it seemed a fascinating topic and she was fantastic when discussing it on the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class. I was quickly disappointed; the writing was scattered, there were random jabs are religion, and there was no going over the basics of tuberculosis. I rapidly lost interest when she said that she had never met anyone with TB. I'm much more into qualitative science and was hoping for personal stories to be integrated with her writing. I got to chapter ...more
The title, jacket, and flap description lead me to think that this book was written for the layperson, but it was too scientific and dense for me to wrap my brain around. Several chapters into some very dense biology lessons, I gave up. I'm sure this is a fine book on the topic, but not for me. ...more
Daniel Farabaugh
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book gets bogged down in the science. It was a lot more technical than I wanted and this dragged. A lot of the writing was good though.
For TB, the story of mutualism, compromise and outright warfare started long before the first humans embarked on their hunter-gatherer ways in Africa's Cradle of Life. But it was only when people started into the picture that things started to get interesting.

This is a brilliant work that captures the strange relationship between Mycobacteria, the bacteria genus that causes tuberculosis disease and Humans.

This book takes us across time and space from current London and Chennai and Tanzania to Eg
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
1.5 breathless starz for this interesting, but frustrating examination of the current state of TB.

Great title: check.
Beautiful cover: check.
Author with proper credentials: check.
Relatively up-to-date (2016-2017) information on the genetics of M. tuberculosis and treatment regimens for TB: check.

Sadly, the rest was rather disappointing. I could not really discern a red thread underlying the writing, as chapters were organized almost randomly. Beyond the structural problems, an even bigger problem
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Catching Breath and Spitting Blood are two must-read books if you want to know more about the impact of tuberculosis worldwide. Lougheed's book especially explores the laboratory work involved in discovering how TB lives and thrives. In spite of everything that researchers have learned about mycobacterium tuberculosis during the past 130 years, we have yet to find an effective vaccine or a chemotherapy regimen that tuberculosis can't outwit. If TB weren't killing millions of us worldwide, we cou ...more
Chelsea Kumer
3.75 stars

Prior to this book my only real awareness of tuberculosis was of the "consumption" so often referred to in historical novels, and I freely admit that's what piqued my interest. The author did an excellent job of persuading me to see it as a complex, interesting, and present-day problem.

All concerns for modern global health aside, (though serioualy, it is an issue) I was positively enthralled to learn about the bacteria itself. It's history predates anatomically modern humans. It co-evo
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Credit to the author for trying to raise awareness on an issue mostly forgotten about - TB kills far more people than AIDS or malaria, yet funding for scientific research stands at a fraction of both. The book is approachable to the non-scientist, but might bear little fascination to her/him. The detail is necessary to make the point of how this global killer proceeds nearly unabated and evolves to adapt to humans' attempt at fighting it. But considering the main cause of its continuing force is ...more
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Great story on a deadly disease told in plain language and with humor

I've read several good books on tuberculosis including The Remedy, Experiment 11, and Discovering Tuberculosis. Catching Breath is at least as good as, if not better than, the others. The scope of this book is broader than that of the others, and includes history, diagnosis, treatment and public health. I particularly liked Kathryn Lougheed’s good sense of humor especially considering the grim nature of the subject material. Sh
Simon Howard
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed this, and learned lots of bits and pieces along the way too. This is a book which describes the history of tuberculosis, makes a case for it still being a pressing problem in the modern world, and talks about the threat of drug resistance and work which is being done to combat this.

Lougheed writes in a conversational tone which is something which usually irritates me, but she pulled it off perfectly. There is a twinkle of humour throughout, despite the serious subject matter,
Raghad Aljishi
Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I first started this book, I was just a girl with slight interest in TB who has zero knowledge about it, neither as a bacteria or as an infection.
I started reading this book hoping to learn from it, but I soon left it on the shelf, and forgot about it.
Picking it up again after couple of years and after studying a bit of microbiology, it proved to be an even easier and smoother read. Its very very interesting, eye opening and even funny.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, its written in a way that a
Genetic Cuckoo
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This was a fascinating book, and I had no idea the history and current state of TB was so complex. I, like many people, think of TB as a disease of the past, something in a Dickens novel. I was also amazed to learn about the interplay between diabetes and TB, and HIV and TB. I found this book an interesting look at an often overlooked disease, and it really helped bring to light some of the challenges in eradicating this disease.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in infectious dis
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
The author was incredibly knowledgeable and her personal passion on the subject shines through. This book was fascinating in terms of the scientific aspects, especially on how tuberculosis is detected, targeted and treated. The book is particularly eye opening on how this is still a very relevant modern day epidemic.
Tuberculosis is a heavy topic and I get that the author was trying to make it a little lighter, however the author's personal anecdotes and tangents threw me off. I did not enjoy th
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a fascinating book. Lougheed examines the history of the disease from its earliest days to the modern struggle of drug-resistant TB. She makes excellent points about how the issues of immigration, urban living and poverty contribute to the spread of the disease. TB is a notoriously difficult disease to treat requiring months of medication(s) that often have life-altering side effects. The writing is funny and interesting however it might be difficult for those outside of the medical fiel ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy reading about medical history and epidemiology, so it's no surprise that I enjoyed this book. It was interesting to read about the history of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but I was really fascinated with the current research that has changed the way we look at TB (latent TB is not really latent!) and addresses the complex problems of drug resistant TB. The author stresses the importance of continued research because in spite of our knowledge, technology, and medications, TB continues to b ...more
Susan Antrobus
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Completly fascinating, a disease that in the west we think we have beaten but it is still the number one world infectious disease. Despite all the efforts of scientist, medics and health programmes, thus bacterium is always one step ahead. Katherine Lougheed writing is excellent, she manages to be both an expert and a communicator
Jun 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Enjoyed the author's sense of humor. The book focuses a lot of attention on studies about the various elements of T.B. testing, treatment, etc. She did a good job of providing metaphors so one would have a better job of understanding the science. I read a lot of epidemiology titles and this falls in the science camp rather than the social science camp. ...more
Ibrahim Dharmawan
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This book does a good review of how the TB diagnostic and treatment progress so far. But it has just done that. I was hoping to find Lougheed proposing new idea or opinion on how we can eradicate TB, instead this book function only as summary. The language used is also very technical. People that able to understand the book won't get very much from reading it. ...more
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thank you Net Galley for the free ARC.

Very thorough history and state of the art of Tuberculosis. From the supposed beginnings to the current drug resistant fight of a disease that has killed more than any other. Can get tedious at times if you are not a die hard scientist.
Pam Lindholm-levy
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I worked in a TB lab for many years and watched methods change for the better and faster. It's criminal that the whole world's TB community cannot agree on methods to expedite lab results. So much depends on money, and the impulse isn't there. ...more
Mads Motema
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, history, english
A very nice book about Tuberculosis that doesn't make you feel dumb because you don't know a lot about TB yet, teaches you a lot about the disease and it's history while still being super entertaining!! ...more
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