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Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic

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4.01  ·  Rating details ·  497 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Physician, researcher, and ethics professor Matt McCarthy is on the front lines of a groundbreaking clinical trial testing a new antibiotic to fight lethal superbugs, bacteria that have built up resistance to the life-saving drugs in our rapidly dwindling arsenal. This trial serves as the backdrop for Superbugs, and the results will impact nothing less than the future of ...more
Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Avery
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Tammy
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Science has never been my thing. I took the required classes to fulfill academic requirements and never looked back. This changed late last summer when my elderly mother was given an antibiotic to clear up an infection prior to surgery and had a violent reaction to the medication. To make a long story short, she wound up with life-threatening sepsis, spent a week in the hospital for treatment and, in fact, she never had an infection at the onset. I suppose this experience, although unrelated to ...more
India Clamp
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: virology
This is not my first book review of Author/MD/Assistant Professor of Medicine Matt McCarthy and given his content I will persevere to review additional literary orchestrations (as they are never trite). If virology is your chocolate fix then Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic is the signal to Graviora manent.


The question is what always motivates the genius. In this case a decade was spent in a lab as Little Flem asked himself, How did bacteria thrive and how could they be killed? Not
...more
Sci-(Fi) Nerd Mario
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book is dealing with the history and future of antibiotics and developing cures against multiresistant monsters, especially the experiences of McCarthy himself, his patients, the ethics and functioning of clinical trials, Big Pharma, and how bureaucracy makes it difficult to develop new cures. Its one of the very few works dealing with this topic and reaching a larger audience, as antibiotic resistance and superbugs are, for understandable reasons, topics no politician wants the public to ...more
Scribe Publications
A perfect work of popular science. Like Atul Gawande, Matt McCarthy has the magical ability to transmit deeply technical knowledge in a way that makes the reader feel like part of a high-level professional conversation; like Michael Lewis, a gift for the place where big ideas overlap; like Elizabeth Kolbert, a sense of narrative urgency about the state of the present world that makes anything outside its pages seem trivial. Magnificent.
Charles Finch, Winner of National Book Critic Circle Award

...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Summary: A wonderful, entertaining, well-cited look at the history, current status, and future of antibiotics in medicine.

As you might guess if you've been reading my blog long, this blend of memoir, science, and medicine was perfect for me. Author Matt McCarthy is a professor at Cornell who treats patients with drug-resistant bacterial infections. In this book, he talks about his experience running his first clinical trial. He also covers some of the history of antibiotics and brings us into
...more
Kenia Sedler
This book is part medical memoir, part medical history, and part medical economics & science lesson. (Disclosure: I won this as part of a GoodReads Giveaway.)

First, Dr. McCarthy offers an insiders' view into how clinical trials are coordinated and implemented (as he takes you through his own clinical trial experience for the antibiotic, dalba), the important role Big Pharma plays in bringing medicine to the masses (which I appreciated, but still couldn't help weighing against their unethical
...more
Hal
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Written by Matt McCarthy M.D. this book is a narrative of how a practicing doctor who is also a professor of medicine takes on the endless battle against the bacterial superbugs that threaten our very existence. With some historical perspectives Dr. McCarthy relates his interactions with patients and the application and development of an antibiotic, alba, that he is developing.

With the help and encouragement of his mentor Dr. Thomas Walsh, Dr. McCarthy narrates the challenges and obstacles he
...more
Mary
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Probably, having a terrible cold with runny nose, fever, and aching sinuses is not the best time to read a book about superbugs! While I suspect I may have a sinus infection, I know going to the doc in the box will do me little good because they never give out antibiotics anymore.

The over prescribing of antibiotics is one of the factors that has led to the rise of superbugs. These are infections that our known antibiotics cant kill. For example, MRSA easy to catch and difficult to defeat.

Dr.
...more
Dmitry Khvatov
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology
Magnificent.
Arnav Barpujari
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Matt McCarthy provides a comprehendible take on one of the most pressuring issues in the medical field, i.e., bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics. Within the book, the readers go on a journey that spans 5 years with Dr. McCarthy in search of a viable drug that can potentially save millions.
Throughout this book, McCarthy idolizes a fellow colleague of his Dr. Tom Walsh, for living up to a "mantra", "Defend the Defenseless" (McCarthy). This book has given me a new perspective on the
...more
Ben Reiter
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There might not be another author who so fluidly combines a world-class doctor and researcher's knowledge and experience with a memoirist's sensibility. Matt McCarthy is Siddhartha Mukherjee and David Sedaris rolled into one. Who else but McCarthy could write a dispatch from the front lines of the secret fight for the future of the human race that is not just gripping and illuminating, but also poignant and funny?
Keen
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Superbugs were evolving in ways we never expected, creating thousands of enzymes to chop up and destroy antibiotics. They were also developing molecular machinery known as efflux pumps (microscopic vacuum cleaners) to excrete antibiotics, rendering the drugs useless. With a single mutation, bacteria can spoil the chemists recipe, and the delicately designed antibiotic is ruined.

These mutations are difficult to detect, sometimes they are not even picked up on until the autopsy. This is just one
...more
Jeff
Sep 28, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is more about The Race to Stop an Epidemic than it is about Superbugs and for that reason I didn't love it. I guess I was hoping to read all about the horrific bacteria and viruses which will usher in the zombie apocalypse. These horrible microbes were characters in the book, just not the main characters. Rather, the book dealt more in human interest stories. It's primary focus was Doctor Matt McCarthy's attempt to get his antibiotic drug trial off the ground. We meet and learn about ...more
Theresa
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McCarthy is worried about the rise of superbugs, bacteria that are resistant to known antibiotics. He writes of a test trial he conducted for a new antibiotic and describes the entire process from getting his protocols approved to selecting his subjects to examining the results. In the process he offers accessible science about the field of antibiotic research and the hurdles medicine is facing to prevent infections from killing us. I found the book interesting and scary. Like viruses that are ...more
Tommy Estlund
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Really well written look at modern medicine and the challenges it faces.

One of the aspects of this book that was most surprising--and that I really appreciated--was the look at how the medical system has been complicit in systemic racial oppression. It was eye-opening to see the parallels between the treatment of Jewish people in the 1930s by the Germans and the treatment of African Americans in the US during the same time period. It was very illuminating. McCarthy doesn't shy away from facing
...more
Raksha Bhat
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent insight into the world of microbes and antimicrobial resistance. The anecdotes and events though trials and research shared by Matt have highlighted the importance of this issue, antimicrobial resistance is indeed a silent epidemic. Being a doctor and microbiologist I could relate to the dilemmas we face in hospitals when deciding on antibiotics. Our hands are tied. Like microbes know no borders, effort towards saving lives with antibiotics should also be united. While this book is ...more
Jane
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Felt like an advertisement for Allergan at times.
Tina
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the personal stories of the researchers and the sick and the behind the scenes research information.
Janette
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I love scientific books and really enjoyed Matt McCarthy's last work. I've also read many scientific books with a lot of facts, figures, and data but this one was such a difficult slog. I'd been really excited to read it and the beginning started out interesting, but it soon digressed into an incredibly dry and dull chore that wasn't enjoyable at all. I suppose researchers or epidemiologists might find it a scintillating study, but for the lay person it was beyond boring.
Rachel
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: medicine
This is a subject Im really interested in, and the book was interesting, but the authors false humility really rubbed me the wrong way. ...more
Cristalyne
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 I really enjoyed the authors last book (The Real Doctor will See You Soon) and I wanted to like this one, but the narrative thread (history of antibiotics; the authors first solo antibiotic trial) felt a little disjointed even though it was an easy read. ...more
Zachary Mezz
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
At times gripping when McCarthy was recounting stories about Tom Walsh or certain cases, but a lot of filler (meetings, emails) that was hard to push through.
Benjamin Espen
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received a free copy of this book through LibraryThings Early Reviewers program.

Superbugs is a fascinating book, and Im glad I had the chance to review it. This book is a window into the management, and hopefully curing, of difficult antibiotic-resistant infections from the point-of-view of a physician who sees the worst the world has to offer. McCarthy wrote it in a chatty, personable, and slightly ADD style that probably makes it more accessible. This is a difficult thing to get right with a
...more
Nancy
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding. Dr. Matt McCarthy is a very accessible writer, and his discussion of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, especially for MRSA skin infections, with the history of antibiotic development and the bugs' battle to mutate was engrossing. And all too timely. I saw Dr. McCarthy, who is with Weill Cornell New-York Presbyterian, speaking in late February on one of the national television networks about the insufficient testing occurring during the coronavirus/covid-19 pandemic.

30+ years ago I
...more
Kara Larson
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. A really good mix of the history and science behind bacteria and the antibiotics that we use to try to contain them (which appealed to the science geek in me) and stories of real patients and their real stories and struggles (which appealed to the physician and fellow human being in me).

Made me think about a lot of things: Big Pharma and its role in the development and cost of medication; the pieces of hospital administration, antibiotic stewardship committee, institutional review
...more
Jonathan Roseland
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Antibiotic resistance, another front in Iatrogenic medicine's losing war on disease.

Superbugs is a well-written deep-dive into the fascinating history of antibiotics and a glimpse into the frontline struggle of doctors and scientists versus some seriously nasty strains of infectious bacteria and fungus.

Sorry guys and gals, this is another doom and gloom book review! Lately, I've been reviewing some books about the very troubling and very real threats to your life and wellbeing perpetuated by
...more
Georgianne
Sep 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I started on the kindle version of this book and really enjoyed the beginning of the book but started to drift in my focus after that. I let the kindle book loan expire and took out the hard copy version from the library and read the rest of the book out of order, jumping around from one case study to another in no particular order. I find it easier to flip back and forth with a "real" book in my hands, and I wanted to finish the book. For some reason, though, I just could not get through it in ...more
RiversideReader
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Matt McCarthy is a staff physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. This book is primarily focused on his work with a clinical trial of a new antibiotic. The author covers a lot of territory including a brief history of antibiotics, how they are developed and, in some cases, why Big Pharma is not interested in creating new and better antibiotics to fight the emergence of "Superbugs" that have become immune to the current drugs available. We also get to meet his wonderful colleague, Dr. Tom ...more
Dugy
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very refreshing book from a view point of a doctor battling infectious diseases trying to stay one step in front of super bugs which are becoming resistant to antibiotics and antifungals. The book also shows the struggle to include big companies to finance and research drugs capable of destroying super bugs. There is a large emphasize on the human side also - caring for patients and their well-being is of the utmost importance and for that we are ever so grateful to doctors all around the ...more
Patrick Pilz
Mar 20, 2020 rated it liked it
This is the story drug development. It shows how under regular circumstances new drugs are found along with the checks and balances required to get them approved. This is a nice background story on what it takes once we have a candidate drug explaining the journey that follows. The story is for a non-fiction book rather sentimental, as it tells a lot of background stories of the patients who would benefit from the drug, making this a highly personal account which not necessarily keeps the facts ...more
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Matt McCarthy is an assistant professor of medicine at Cornell and author of Superbugs (2019), The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly (2015), and Odd Man Out (2009).
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