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Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic

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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 humanity.

Dr. McCarthy explores the history of bacteria and antibiotics, from Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin, to obscure sources of innovative new medicines (often found in soil samples), to the cutting-edge DNA manipulation known as CRISPR, bringing to light how we arrived at this juncture of both incredible breakthrough and extreme vulnerability. We also meet the patients whose lives are hanging in the balance, from Remy, a teenager with a dangerous and rare infection, to Donny, a retired New York City firefighter with a compromised immune system, and many more.

288 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 2, 2019

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About the author

Matt McCarthy

3 books172 followers
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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Displaying 1 - 30 of 118 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
763 reviews3,497 followers
April 12, 2020
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 worry about too much because of the very negative interconnection and correlations to the economy and subsidy models that helped to breed the problem over the last decades.

I´ve been searching for books dealing with this topic for a while now and it says a lot that there is a cloak of silence surrounding the problem, except of books that use a more personal and autobiographical writing style such as https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3.... Maybe I´ll read it, but it seems to be a bit too less specific to correspond to my reading habits, with its main focus on the persons and anecdotes and lesser on the science behind the cure.

Because many different social and societal problems are fused in this coming mega crisis of infested health care systems and hospitals, dust infecting people just talking a walk, small cuts that can kill again, etc., publishers and newspapers dreaded to publish and talk about the real scope of the problem, but finally, the time seems to have come to openly share the facts.

Feeding vast amounts of antibiotics and many other drugs and chemicals to livestock to push growth and not let them die in the horrible conditions they are forced to suffer through a short life until they are butchered and their flesh spreads contamination and is so filled with antibiotics that it has influences on the human body, prescribing far too many antibiotics to humans who have viral infections or don´t need them, people not taking all of their antibiotics, and no interest in research for new antibiotics are the reasons for why humankind will enter the postantibiotic era, when each little infection or injury could be deadly, again. The logical consequence of hyperinflationary floating the whole planet with one of the previously mightiest and best weapons against germs for profit maximization.

It´s not the only field with a similar, coming, and completely unnecessary and avoidable catastrophe, it´s the same with the climate, the second category of multiresistant bugs, fungi, and microorganisms humankind is breeding by using more and more potent pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in agriculture, ecocide and pollution, etc. It´s not pessimistic to say that we are traveling towards a multi disaster era, because we are fighting an unwinnable arms race against evolution and nature itself by trying to be smarter and cleverer, tinkering around with tools flora and fauna had hundreds of millions of years and microorganisms billions of years to optimize.

I am a techno optimist, but I deem it impossible to find enough cures and new drugs, not to speak of a sustainable economic and political system that doesn´t include self- destruction buttons made out of pure greed and worshipping the almighty mister mammon.

As a doctor, McCarthy has to have an optimistic outlook to stay motivated and have a positive effect on his patients and although bacteriophages, nano-, and biotechnology promise breakthroughs that could heal, only the richer people in the wealthy nations will be able to pay for the treatments while the rest of the world's population stays a breeding ground for the unnecessarily unleashed demons.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real life outside books:
Profile Image for Tammy.
506 reviews422 followers
February 28, 2019
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 the book, is what prompted me to read Superbugs. McCarthy does a great job of grounding you in the discovery and history of antibiotics as well as their overuse and the subsequent development of resistant bacteria and fungi. Explanations about the difficulty of devising protocols and implementing pioneering trials are also addressed. The role of Big Pharma funding, pricing, and profit margins is covered, too. The good doctor humanizes his account by introducing you to a number of his patients; some of whom have happy outcomes and others less so. This is an accessible and very readable narrative and I, for one, am glad Dr. McCarthy and his mentor, Dr. Walsh, are leading the charge to find new drugs to outsmart and destroy these very nasty bugs.
Profile Image for India M. Clamp.
206 reviews
July 2, 2019
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 quite the Nobel prize winner (yet) we meet---via Dr. McCarthy---Alexander Fleming in his humble days as a “triage medic” transporting dead and dying patients.

“...Little *Flem as he was known, was not drawn to controversy, or to combat or even conversation. (One colleague claimed that trying to speak to him was like playing tennis with a man who, when he received a serve, put the ball in his pocket.)”

---Matt McCarthy, MD

Knowledge brings sadness and the question “Why?’ Confronted with wisdom that not all physicians act on behalf of patients. Recount of the Tuskegee study is given. Eighty two percent were black and twenty-two percent could not read or write. What must it be like to do 20 spinal taps on a quotidian basis and watch suffering men with syphilis?

Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic” is on the level of literary star “Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD” in originality and brevity. Dr. Matt McCarthy opens wide the doors to a brilliant introvert and Nobel Prize winner Sir Alexander Fleming---who engineered the drug penicillin. He adored music. Sad, realistic and honest. Read.
Profile Image for Scribe Publications.
561 reviews92 followers
September 24, 2020
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

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?
Ben Reiter, New York Times Bestselling Author of Astroball

Intriguing ... This book discusses many big things, along with microscopic ones, and the two combine to provide a valuable insight to a challenge facing us all, whether doctor or patient.
Robin Osborne, GPSpeak

It is a fascinating read, enhanced by his detours into medical history ... McCarthy can wring suspense from fungal infection and faculty meetings.
Jenny Nicholls, North and South

Mostly heart-breaking, but at times laugh-out-loud funny … Superbugs is an immersive and educational read that combines feelings of futility with a sense of hope at just the right moments.
Anna Kosmynina, COSMOS

A riveting insider’s look at the race to find a cure for antibiotic-resistant infections, one of the most pressing challenges in modern medicine … The author’s storytelling is at once urgent and empathetic, a compelling combination that leaves readers feeling informed and optimistic. Insightful and honest, McCarthy effectively combines useful information about the latest advances in microbial research with accounts of the best aspects of humanity.
Kirkus Reviews

McCarthy gives an insider’s look at the history of antibiotics and the urgent fight against deadly, drug-resistant bacteria.

Dr. McCarthy offers a glimmer of hope: a new way to both cure and prevent future superbug infections with a single treatment.
Christian Broadcasting Network

McCarthy weaves the history of the life-saving drugs into a suspenseful account of his own role in a groundbreaking clinical trial.
The Boston Globe Magazine

It may sound like another sci-fi superhero movie, but physician and author Matt McCarthy warns that the topic of lethal bacteria is not to be taken lightly … McCarthy explains how these pathogens have built up a resistance to our current arsenal of antibiotics.
NPR’s All Things Considered

Cutting-edge science.
Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Sheds a lot of light on an issue that should be in the public consciousness.
SF Gate

Incredibly interesting with a good mix of the scientific and human aspects … McCarthy also goes into the history of antibiotic development and the economics of today’s drug development that limit the research for new antimicrobials … The book is easy to read, and never dull due to the patient interactions. McCarthy explains novel concepts in a simple, easy to understand way.
Sam Still Reading
Profile Image for Katie/Doing Dewey.
1,060 reviews204 followers
June 24, 2019
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 the lives of his patients. Digressions about everything from funding for drug development to the metrics hospitals track kept me interested as well.

I've found that balance is key to my enjoyment of books that are a memoir plus something else. This book got that balance just right. I was always entertained by the mix of historical info, personal stories, and patient stories. The asides gave me a broader view of both the many responsibilities the author juggles and the different parts of the health care system. His obvious affection for his mentor made me enjoy hearing about his mentor's background. The parts of the author's own life that he chose to share connected the other pieces, giving the book a generally good flow. The citations in this book were some of the best I've seen, perhaps the best from a non-University Press book, which I loved. I generally think that if someone is an expert enough to write about a topic, they should be able to cite published papers as McCarthy did here. I really can't praise this enough!

Section breaks were sometimes a bit rough. They appeared to be dictated by the phase of the clinical trial he was in, but several started with historical anecdotes, obscuring the organization based in the author's own timeline. Section break titles would help and perhaps they'll be added into the final version of the book (I read from an ARC). My only other small complaint is that a few of the author's analogies didn't quite work for me and I could have done with fewer baseball metaphors. These complaints were very small though and overall, I loved this engaging look at the history, current state of, and future of antibiotics in human medicine.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey
Profile Image for Hal.
561 reviews3 followers
March 27, 2019
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 faces from patient consent forms to the financial forces of Big Pharma. Each case shares its similarities and differences and provides an insight into the toll this work can take not only on the patients but the doctors who must also deal with the setbacks and emotional strains.

The book did lack a more descriptive approach into what superbugs are about which I had thought it would be more about. Instead it focuses more on the people afflicted by the infections and reads more like a case study book. However the messages are clear as to implications of why this work is so important. The doctors involved in developing these antibodies we rarely hear of but their persistence and dedication to winning this endless battle is truly a heroic tale.
Profile Image for Kenia Sedler.
179 reviews34 followers
April 28, 2019
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 questionable pricing practices), and the vital ethics of obtaining informed consent from patients when recruiting them into clinical trials (as he takes you through some of their personal stories).

Second, Dr. McCarthy gives good history lessons: devoting a chapter to the shocking, awful, and cruel Syphilis Tuskegee Experiment, discussing Alexander Fleming's discovery of the first antibiotic, Penicillin, detailing how scientists Elizabeth Lee Hazen and Rachel Fuller Brown collaborated in discovering and creating the first anti-fungal medication, Nystatin, and many other interesting and important historical tidbits.

Third, but certainly not least, Dr. McCarthy explains the economics behind drug discovery and creation, revealing why antibiotic development is so difficult and why we're struggling to come up with new antibiotic medicines to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. He also discusses current research efforts, and the science behind them in easy-to-understand terms. Finally, he explains the dangers of antibiotic and antifungal overuse, and the resulting development of both antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antifungal-resistant fungi--which is why coming up with new medication is so vital at this point in time, despite its difficulty.

Overall, this was a fascinating read.
Profile Image for Mary.
813 reviews15 followers
December 24, 2019
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.

Dr. McCarthy, the author, and his mentor Dr. Walsh work on the cutting edge of testing new substances that may be antibiotics that can cure infections from the superbugs. In this book, you read about how a study was done to test a drug called Dalba which fights infections like MRSA. They also discuss using combinations of drugs to win the battle.

Even more interesting is the locations searched for these new substances that may be effective drugs. They are found in dirt ,waste, and sewage. You leave this book grateful for doctors like McCarthy and Walsh and marvel that the world is such a remarkable place.
Profile Image for James.
296 reviews3 followers
April 12, 2020
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 interesting how a clinical trial comes to life and it's also very interesting how many different patients from different walks of life get exposure to random bugs. Some of the most useful parts of this book for me were the development of antibiotics, soil antibiotics and how information is shared between researchers.

As the book wrapped up on the note of Crispr, I've also been researching a lot of this topic and find it interesting how one can consider gene therapy as a way to rid one of a disease. I'm looking forward to more conversations about Crispr and how they can eradicate disease and hopefully without introducing additional superbugs or gene mutations that run amuck and create a zombie society (just kidding; but who knows).

Good book and good timing to read. Yes the Coronavirus is a flu by nature attacking the respiratory systems and provided maybe 6-12 months a cure / vaccine, etc. will be found and we will all be back at work oblivious to the interruptions we've just had.
June 3, 2019
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 intensity of a clinical trial, from years of protocol being rejected by an Institutional Review Board to making ethical judgements regarding patients.
However, the beauty of the book lies in the cases of patients that Dr. McCarthy presents to the readers. The wide variety of cases that are presented allows me and the readers to see just how different the walks of life are for different people. For instance, you have "Ruth" from Nazi Europe who has a deep love a shoes ever since her ruby red shoes were taken from her when she was young. And then you have someone like "Donny" who was a firefighter during 9/11. The only thing common between "Ruth" and "Donny" is that both have developed an infectious disease and have enrolled in Dr. McCarthy's clinical trial.
This book is a must read for anyone that has even the slightest interest in science, because it shows you the determination and perseverance of Dr. McCarthy in living up to the mantra, "Defend the Defenseless."
Profile Image for Jeff Koeppen.
530 reviews31 followers
September 28, 2019
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 the lives of the test subjects in his trial, all of which are suffering some type of severe microbial infection, and learn all about the life of his mentor and confidant, Doctor Thomas Walsh. The patients' stories are all sad and touching. There is a 9/11 NYC fireman suffering from the effects of a compromised immune system due to his service on that day, a holocaust survivor, a young teenage girl, and many others - your heart breaks for these people. You can feel the sadness in the Doctor's words as he discusses his cases with his fellow physicians and his mentor.

Doctor McCarthy does offer some really interesting insights in to how antibiotics work, how they are developed, and how Big Pharma works (the good and the bad). He tells us the history of bacteria and antibiotics going back to penicillin (which we now have a shortage of because it is no longer that profitable to make - sad) and up to the current cutting- edge development of new drugs. Research and development are imperatively important as microbes evolve quickly and are becoming increasingly immune to our current antibiotics. He also talks about CRISPR and how it may eventually change the whole disease and cancer fight to our advantage. Personally, I don't understand why there isn't more buzz in everyday news about CRISPR. The author said that it is the most important medical discovery in a century and I'm with him on that.

Maybe the most fascinating story in the whole book is about the discovery of antibiotics and the ongoing, intense search for new ones. He talks about how scientists are testing soil samples from all over the world looking for new microbes we can use to battle diseases. He says, "....we are surrounded by undiscovered medicines - microbes are engaged in biological warfare all around us, making new chemicals under our feet that could eventually end up saving millions of lives. I was accustomed to thinking about the deadly infections that were coming for my patients but now I could picture their cures, too. Just below the topsoil there were tiny molecules that could alleviate disease and stomp out epidemics. We just had to keep looking. The remedy for the next super bug or cure for cancer may be under our feet right now."

Oh, and you'll learn who the good Doctor's favorite band is and what their favorite song is. I won't spoil that for you.

Overall I give this book a thumbs up even though it wasn't what I thought it would be. I learned a lot about antibiotics and how the pharmaceutical industry works. We are at an important time in our history when it comes to fighting disease.

My fifth book for Science September.
Profile Image for Ben Reiter.
Author 1 book55 followers
May 15, 2019
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?
2,174 reviews32 followers
August 13, 2019

“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 of the fascinating facts in this book. We follow McCarthy as he battles to gain IRB approval to carry out to his experimental dalba study. And then he has to source a number of volunteers to submit to the trial. His almost boyish admiration for his exceptional mentor, Tom Walsh, is also a recurring theme throughout this book.

This switches between major medical discoveries, past case studies and McCarthy’s progress in tracking down patients who qualify for his new drug. We learn about all sorts of fascinating people and events like Alexander Fleming in France 1914 and his discovery of penicillin later on, Gerhard Domagk, even J D Rockefeller. Though McCarthy mistakenly claims at one point that the Spanish Flu originated in Iberia, “the outbreak had begun in Spain in May of that year.” When in actual fact that myth was dispelled years ago and most experts currently believe that the flu either started in France, China or the US.

We learn that the 1950s were the golden era for antibiotic development as much as half of the drugs in use today were discovered in this period. He explains the reasons why Big Pharma is always reluctant to invest in antibiotics, is because broadly speaking they know that they will eventually develop drug resistance. They are usually given in short courses and prescribed only when someone is sick, so they don’t like to invest in them.

“The indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animals has been one of the primary drivers of superbugs.” He later expands, saying “The spread of superbugs is driven largely by improper animal husbandry, poor sanitation, weak infection-control policies, and overcrowding.”

Apparently the medical profession had the largest proportion of Nazi party members of any profession in all of Germany. He touches on the cruel medical experiments conducted by Nazi doctors during WWII and the ones done by Americans before that with the Tuskegee experiments, where young, poor, black men were exploited as human guinea pigs for syphilis observation under the guidance of Dr Ray Vonderlehr. The men weren’t told they had syphilis, but just told they had “bad blood” Vonderlehr was performing up to 20 spinal taps a day. This was initially only supposed to be a six month trial to run from 1932-33, until fate intervened and it ended up lasting forty years. The men were not denied treatment, they just weren’t offered any. Around 100 men died as a direct result from untreated condition and they unknowingly infected many innocent women and children in their family as a result. The experiment was only stopped when the story broke in 1972.

“Between 2001 and 2013, there were 148 shortages of antibiotics, and doctors across the country resorted to second-class treatment options. Most patients didn’t even know it was happening.”

We learn of the importance of The Beecher Report published in the “New England Journal of Medicine” in 1966 which cited no less than 22 American studies where patients had served as experimental subjects without informed consent which would lead to a change in approach. He also gives us a brief history and vast importance of the FDA within the USA and possibly the most famous case when Frances Oldham Kelsey repeatedly rejected pressure and abuse from Big Pharma to approve Thalidomide, saving thousands and potentially millions of Americans from serious birth defects.

“I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can.” So insists Nirmal Mulye, the president of Nostrum Pharmaceuticals, when justifying his decision to increase the price of one of WHO’s list of essential medicines by 400%. But of course it is not that uncommon for pharmaceutical companies to make price increases by more than 5000%. Just because they can get away with it. But it is not all bad news as we find out that GSK in Europe have rewarded their employees for helping doctors prescribe antibiotics appropriately rather than for just meeting sales quotas.

I really enjoyed this book. Like many good popular science books, this was both a terrifying and inspiring read. It avoided all the potential pitfalls of popular medicine books, managing not to be too dumbed down or over-run with jargon. This was a clear, informative and entertaining read.
Profile Image for Theresa.
994 reviews17 followers
July 2, 2019
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 mutating faster than we can keep up, bacteria are becoming smarter than our science, largely because of ways we have abused antibiotic use.
297 reviews
May 2, 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 harsh realities of mistreatment that persists, and that makes this book very much an important addition to discussion of issues we face today.

Definitely recommend.
Profile Image for Raksha Bhat.
216 reviews117 followers
October 28, 2019
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 a must read for health care professionals, I would strongly recommend this one for all our health care administrators and the public at large.
Profile Image for Lauren Schultz.
201 reviews21 followers
April 17, 2020
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.
1,095 reviews2 followers
March 17, 2021
The topic was covered well and McCarthy mixed in the history and current science in well with the stories of real patients. At times, the flow of the book was a bit choppy to me, but the book still works. The details on the clinical trial were particularly interesting.
Profile Image for 12ari.
14 reviews
December 27, 2022
i didnt know u can make a gooood book out of clinical research. first half of the book, chef's kiss. second half gets a bit boring. super cool to see so much of the bits and pieces i learnt in uni being laid out into this whole timeline. amazing suka !
Profile Image for Jane.
139 reviews2 followers
December 16, 2019
Felt like an advertisement for Allergan at times.
Profile Image for Joe Butt.
23 reviews
April 5, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Og Maciel.
Author 6 books30 followers
June 7, 2020
Interesting read about a topic that seems to be very appropriate to our current times.
Profile Image for Audrey.
158 reviews
August 23, 2022
finally, another way capitalism is going to kill us all 👍
Profile Image for Ericka Clou.
2,051 reviews158 followers
August 14, 2021
I've been reading a lot about viruses and bacteria lately and I'm always pleased when I find some new-to-me information in a book. This one is a winner. It flags an impending big problem yes, but also points to possible solutions in research.
Profile Image for Janette.
220 reviews
August 5, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Rachel.
11 reviews
November 12, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Jess Petrella.
218 reviews77 followers
February 7, 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 lethal bacteria. AND he does so in a way that's not heavy on the medical jargon, so you definitely don't need a background in biology to still get a lot from this book. Some of the sections of the book where he describes the process of getting his clinical trial approved were a *tad* bit boring for me, but again, that's just because I already know how it works. If you don't know anything about that kind of stuff, I don't think it would be boring for you. ⁣

I would highly recommend this one! If you've ever had or know someone who has been infected with MRSA, C. Diff, or any other kind of superbug, or find yourself wondering why we're unable to kill these bacteria when antibiotics used to work so great - READ THIS. ⁣

Overall, read this if you:⁣
- are interested in bacteria, medicine, clinical trials, etc.⁣
- curious about where medicine is headed (in terms of treating bacterial infections)⁣
Profile Image for Cristalyne.
62 reviews4 followers
June 17, 2019
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.
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