Drug-resistant bacteria — known as superbugs — are one of the biggest medical threats of our time. Here, a doctor, researcher, and ethics professor tells the exhilarating story of his race to beat them and save countless lives.
When doctor Matt McCarthy first meets Jackson, an African-American mechanic from Queens, it is in the ER, where he has come for treatment for an infected gunshot wound. Usually, antibiotics would be prescribed, but Jackson’s infection is one of a growing number of superbugs, bacteria that have built up resistance to known drugs. He only has one option, and if that doesn’t work he may lose his leg or even his life.
On the same day, McCarthy and his mentor Tom Walsh begin work on a groundbreaking clinical trial for a new antibiotic they believe will eradicate certain kinds of superbugs and demonstrate to Big Pharma that investment in these drugs can save millions of lives and prove financially viable. But there are countless hoops to jump through before they can begin administering the drug to patients, and for people like Jackson time is in short supply.
Superbugs is a compelling tale of medical ingenuity. From the muddy trenches of the First World War, where Alexander Fleming searched for a cure for soldiers with infected wounds, to breakthroughs in antibiotics and antifungals today that could revolutionise how infections are treated, McCarthy takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride through the history — and future — of medicine. Along the way, we meet patients like Remy, a teenage girl with a dangerous and rare infection; Donny, a retired firefighter with a compromised immune system; and Bill, the author’s own father-in-law, who contracts a deadly staph infection. And we learn about the ethics of medical research: why potentially life-saving treatments are often delayed for years to protect patients from exploitation.
Can McCarthy get his trial approved and underway in time to save the lives of his countless patients infected with deadly bacteria, who have otherwise lost all hope?