The Secret Life of Germs
Observations and Lessons from a Microbe Hunter
They're everywhere. Silent and invisible to the naked eye, they're on everything we touch, eat, breathe -- on every single inch of our skin. And despite the remarkable advances of science, germs are challenging medicine in ways that were unimaginable just a decade ago. Due to an explosion of infections never before reported in modern history and a new germ horror story surfacing every week, it's no small wonder that we're frightened -- and that antibacterial soaps are a billion-dollar business. Now, renowned microbiologist Philip Tierno cuts through the media hype with the compulsively readable Secret Life Of Germs, revealing exactly where the greatest threats may be hiding.
The Secret Life Of Germs provides an inside view of this fascinating and elegantly ordered microscopic world -- from the common cold, E. coli, and Lyme disease to encephalitis, mad cow disease, and anthrax. It takes readers on a historical survey of the culprits of disease and explores the effect that they -- and the scientists who study them -- have had on our world.
Rising above the common scare-tactic techniques used by many authors, Dr. Tierno's message is an optimistic one. Recognizing that humans are more often than not the main spreaders of disease, he offers numerous protective response strategies -- health and hygiene tips for inside and outside the home, advice on food safety, and pointers on human contact -- to stop the transmittal. Filled with practical and enlightening information, The Secret Life Of Germs is an engaging book that will keep readers mesmerized while helping them stay healthy.
Germs are the seeds of life as well as disease, explains Tierno, the New York University Medical Center doctor who helped solve the mystery of toxic shock syndrome. A germ hunter in the truest sense, Tierno spells out how to survive a world so rife with germs that "alien observers might conclude that they are the dominant life form on our planet." His field samplings from high-trafficked New York City locations such as pay phones, taxicabs, public restrooms and even the engagement ring counter at Tiffany's will startle readers, but the author is not an alarmist: his aim is disease prevention, and his method is education. The book opens with a quick history of germ evolution and of human understanding of germs, from biblical injunctions on cleanliness to the modern science of microbiology. It outlines the various ways illness-causing bacteria are transmitted and gives precise instructions for minimizing infection with a bulleted list of "protective response strategies" at the end of each chapter. On subjects of controversy, Tierno tends to fall on the conservative side. He rejects the recent notion that overcleaning is responsible for deficient immune systems and increased childhood asthma (arguing that even the most vigilant housekeeping wouldn't protect kids from all germs), and his warnings against unpasteurized products will be questioned by some. The last third of the book touches on the unexpected role of germs in illnesses such as ulcers and heart disease; antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains; germ warfare; and bacteria-fighting methods of the future. This germ primer brings the bug into focus while setting even the most jittery hypochondriac's mind at ease.