Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic

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"An amazing, informative book that changes our perspective on medicine, microbes and our future."
--Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, New York Times bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies

A New York Times bestselling author shares this exhilarating story of cutting-edge science and the race against the clock to find new treatments in the fight against the antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs.


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 the compulsively readable 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.

The proverbial ticking clock will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Can Dr. McCarthy save the lives of his patients infected with the deadly bacteria, who have otherwise lost all hope?
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About the author

MATT MCCARTHY is the author of two national bestsellers, The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly and Odd Man Out. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell and a staff physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where he serves on the Ethics Committee. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Slate, The New England Journal of Medicine, and Deadspin. He reviews nonfiction for USA Today and is editor-in-chief of Current Fungal Infection Reports.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
May 21, 2019
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780735217522
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Language
English
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Genres
Medical / Clinical Medicine
Medical / History
Medical / Research
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In the decade from 1935-1945, while the Second World War raged in Europe, a new class of medicines capable of controlling bacterial infections launched a therapeutic revolution that continues today. The new medicines were not penicillin and antibiotics, but sulfonamides, or sulfa drugs. The sulfa drugs preceded penicillin by almost a decade, and during World War II they carried the main therapeutic burden in both military and civilian medicine. Their success stimulated a rapid expansion of research and production in the international pharmaceutical industry, raised expectations of medicine, and accelerated the appearance of new and powerful medicines based on research. The latter development created new regulatory dilemmas and unanticipated therapeutic problems. The sulfa drugs also proved extraordinarily fruitful as starting points for new drugs or classes of drugs, both for bacterial infections and for a number of important non-infectious diseases. This book examines this breakthrough in medicine, pharmacy, and science in three parts. Part I shows that an industrial research setting was crucial to the success of the revolution in therapeutics that emerged from medicinal chemistry. Part II shows how national differences shaped the reception of the sulfa drugs in Germany, France, Britain, and the United States. The author uses press coverage of the day to explore popular perceptions of the dramatic changes taking place in medicine. Part III documents the impact of the sulfa drugs on the American effort in World War II. It also shows how researchers came to an understanding of how the sulfa drugs worked, adding a new theoretical dimension to the science of pharmacology and at the same time providing a basis for the discovery of new medicinal drugs in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. A concluding chapter summarizes the transforming impact of the sulfa drugs on twentieth-century medicine, tracing the therapeutic revolution from the initial breakthrough in the 1930s to the current search for effective treatments for AIDS and the new horizons opened up by the human genome project and stem cell research.
In The Antibiotic Era, physician-historian Scott H. Podolsky narrates the far-reaching history of antibiotics, focusing particularly on reform efforts that attempted to fundamentally change how antibiotics are developed and prescribed. This sweeping chronicle reveals the struggles faced by crusading reformers from the 1940s onward as they advocated for a rational therapeutics at the crowded intersection of bugs and drugs, patients and doctors, industry and medical academia, and government and the media.

During the post–World War II "wonder drug" revolution, antibiotics were viewed as a panacea for mastering infectious disease. But from the beginning, critics raised concerns about irrational usage and overprescription. The first generation of antibiotic reformers focused on regulating the drug industry. The reforms they set in motion included the adoption of controlled clinical trials as the ultimate arbiters of therapeutic efficacy, the passage of the Kefauver-Harris amendments mandating proof of drug efficacy via well-controlled studies, and the empowering of the Food and Drug Administration to remove inefficacious drugs from the market. Despite such victories, no entity was empowered to rein in physicians who inappropriately prescribed, or overly prescribed, approved drugs.

Now, in an era of emerging bugs and receding drugs, discussions of antibiotic resistance focus on the need to develop novel antibiotics and the need for more appropriate prescription practices in the face of pharmaceutical marketing, pressure from patients, and the structural constraints that impede rational delivery of antibiotics worldwide. Concerns about the enduring utility of antibiotics—indeed, about a post-antibiotic era—are widespread, as evidenced by reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, academia, and popular media alike. Only by understanding the historical forces that have shaped our current situation, Podolsky argues, can we properly understand and frame our choices moving forward.

-- John E. Lesch, University of California
International textbooks on infectious diseases and antibacterial chemotherapy are usually written for readers in North America and Europe. In many ways, they are not appropriate for the prob lems encountered in developing countries. This book, in contrast, intends to define the rules of antibacterial chemotherapy practised under conditions of limited resources. It is meant for everyone con cerned with the use of antibiotics in developing countries, includ ing doctors, medical assistants, pharmacists, officials in health mio isteries, and medical students. Throughout the book, treatment recommendations are made for 1 antibiotics from the WHO list of essential drugs. For example, em phasis has therefore been put upon chloramphenicol as a stable, unexpensive and widely available oral agent suitable for the treat ment of severe bacterial infections like septicemia and meningitis. So-called "international chemotherapy" with modem cephalospor ins and acylaminopenicillins has been outlined for comparison. Since it is the aim of the book to base treatment recommenda tions on data from developing countries, many data on the etiology of common bacterial infections in developing countries have also been included. Most of the data are from African, English-speak ing developing countries, but references have been made to the lit erature on South East Asia, India or Papua New Guinea, where appropriate. On the other hand, pertinent data were not available in every instance, so that several statements and recommendations had to be made as "best guess". The authors are aware of these imperfections and will welcome comments from the readers.
A scorchingly frank look at how doctors are made, bringing readers into the critical care unit to see one burgeoning physician's journey from ineptitude to competence.

In medical school, Matt McCarthy dreamed of being a different kind of doctor—the sort of mythical, unflappable physician who could reach unreachable patients. But when a new admission to the critical care unit almost died his first night on call, he found himself scrambling. Visions of mastery quickly gave way to hopes of simply surviving hospital life, where confidence was hard to come by and no amount of med school training could dispel the terror of facing actual patients.

This funny, candid memoir of McCarthy’s intern year at a New York hospital provides a scorchingly frank look at how doctors are made, taking readers into patients’ rooms and doctors’ conferences to witness a physician's journey from ineptitude to competence. McCarthy's one stroke of luck paired him with a brilliant second-year adviser he called “Baio” (owing to his resemblance to the Charles in Charge star), who proved to be a remarkable teacher with a wicked sense of humor. McCarthy would learn even more from the people he cared for, including a man named Benny, who was living in the hospital for months at a time awaiting a heart transplant. But no teacher could help McCarthy when an accident put his own health at risk, and showed him all too painfully the thin line between doctor and patient.

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly offers a window on to hospital life that dispenses with sanctimony and self-seriousness while emphasizing the black-comic paradox of becoming a doctor: How do you learn to save lives in a job where there is no practice?
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