Friday, June 9, 2017

Book Review: 'Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA' by Maryn McKenna

Review by Greg Dworkin
Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA 
Maryn McKenna 
Free Press (Simon & Schuster) 
Hardcover, 288 pages, $26.00 list 
Kindle Edition $12.99 
March, 2010
Money quote:
To his bewildered mother and grandmother, the swirl of controlled chaos around Tony was as inexplicable as his sudden collapse; the ICU seemed to be trying everything, hoping it would bring him back from the brink. No diagnosis was possible yet. They had been in the hospital barely an hour, not long enough for test results to make it down to the lab and back. But the medical staff had a strong suspicion of what could bring a healthy boy down so quickly, and the clue lay in one of the drugs they ordered pushed into his veins. it was called vancomycin, and it was famous in hospitals as a drug of last resort. They had used it against a bacterium that had learned to protect itself against most of the other drugs thrown at it, a particularly dangerous variety of staph called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – MRSA for short.
Basic Premise: A medical journalist, steeped in the ways of the CDC from covering them as a beat reporter, follows the threat of MRSA from the earliest reports in the 80's of hospital nursery spread to reports of modern outbreaks of MRSA (at first rejected by medical journals) to the farms where it incubates and the prisons where it spreads. There were missed opportunities to control spread, and we are still missing opportunities (see the food chain) to do a better job of detection and control before things get even worse than they are now.

Author: Maryn McKenna is a journalist and author specializing in public health, medicine and health policy. She previously published Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines With the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service. An award winning seven part series on flu vaccine was written for CIDRAP (University of Minnesota). Future projects include "a multi-year research project on emergency room overcrowding and stress".
Readability/quality: This is an excellent read, with well researched science but written at a level any news magazine reader could follow. The author has the experience to write about the topic with authority, without hectoring or lecturing the reader.
Who should read it: Anyone interested in learning more about the well-publicized MRSA bacteria; anyone interested in epidemiology; understanding the relationship between animals, the food chain and human disease; and anyone who likes a good detective story. Well, medical detective story, anyway.
Bonus blogSuperbug: Research, strategies and stories from the struggle against methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) maintained by the author.

Editor's note: This review was originally published at the Daily Kos, which notes that its "content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified." The original page can be found here. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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