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Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  742 ratings  ·  102 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 h ...more
Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Avery
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Mario the lone bookwolf
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. It´s 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 w ...more
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 M. 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?”
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

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 th
Kenia Sedler
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 and
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 fa
Mary & Tom
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 can’t kill. For example, MRSA easy to catch and difficult to defeat.

Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the world is dealing with the Coronavirus, I discovered I had this audiobook on deck since November (2 months before the outbreak; interesting timing). Coming out of a recent 8.5 years in healthcare and having worked in the lab side of healthcare science for years, I found this book fascinating and informative.

Yes this is scary and I've worked with MRSA, CDIF and other infectious diseases (however never touching them; just working on systems, processes and equipment to test). It's interestin
Dmitry Khvatov
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology
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 inte
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? ...more
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 o
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 t ...more
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 m ...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
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
Lauren Schultz
Pretty interesting, and even though the book focuses on antibiotics and superbugs and not viruses, it's still generally very relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. McCarthy does a good job of making the science more approachable by telling the personal stories of many people impacted by infections, including his own father-in-law. ...more
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Felt like an advertisement for Allergan at times.
Joe Butt
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Could have done with more Phage stuff and what actually is coming next but still a 'super' worthy read for anyone interested in the Antibiotic Resistance Crisis. ...more
Og Maciel
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Interesting read about a topic that seems to be very appropriate to our current times.
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.
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. ...more
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: medicine
This is a subject I’m really interested in, and the book was interesting, but the author’s false humility really rubbed me the wrong way.
Jess Bondy
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2020
A little background on me: I majored in microbiology in college and my first job after undergrad was a clinical research assistant position; so, I know a lot about microbes and a lot about the way that scientific research is done.🔬

That being said, and considering that's what this book is about, I still really loved it. Dr. McCarthy goes into detail about the history of antibiotics, how "superbugs" came to be, and where we're headed when it comes to figuring out how to kill these extremely letha
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 I really enjoyed the author’s last book (The Real Doctor will See You Soon) and I wanted to like this one, but the narrative thread (history of antibiotics; the author’s first solo antibiotic trial) felt a little disjointed even though it was an easy read.
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 LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.

Superbugs is a fascinating book, and I’m 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
Sam Still Reading
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in medicine or antibiotics
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: sounded good
Good medical non-fiction is always hard to put down for me. Matt McCarthy’s books (he’s also written The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly, which I didn’t realise when I bought this) read like a story. This is a story of antimicrobial resistance which severely limits the lives of real people and the story of an investigator leading his first clinical trial. The two plotlines go very well together and also include the story of the people whose lives are deeply affected by chronic infections that c ...more
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 work
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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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