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Good Germs, Bad Germs

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Good Germs, Bad Germs
Health and Survival in a Bacterial World
. By Jessica Snyder Sachs. (Hill & Wang - A Division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 2008. Pg. x, 290.) ISBN 10: 0-8090-1642-7. ISBN 13: 978-0-8090-1642-6.

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - December 30, 2008

All germs are bad. Or are they? In Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World, Jessica Snyder Sachs, a freelance science writer, explores the symbiotic relationship that we, as humans, have with germs, and what has recently gone terribly wrong with this relationship. With the ever increasing rise in food allergies, asthma, antibiotic resistance bacterial infections, and chronic, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as lupus, Chrohn's disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

In the course of this engaging and somewhat scary study, Sachs chronicles the search for antibiotics and examines why they worked so well when they were first discovered - and why they no longer do so. She also devotes a significant portion of this book to the exploration of the "Hygiene Hypothesis." This is a theory that many of today's ills, including food allergies and increases in inflammatory diseases are a direct result of good sanitation and hygiene practices. Because of these, we, as humans, are no longer exposed to many of the germs that previous generations were. Therefore, the body is unable to build up a resistance to them, so when they do attack, the attack can be devastating. As well, our increased reliance on antibiotics has not only succeeded in killing the bad microorganisms, but also the good ones that we need to maintain our overall health.

>From beginning to end Good Germs, Bad Germs is a fascinating history of man's apparently ill-conceived battle against our bacterial foes. This book also marvelously illustrates just how interrelated man is with the world around, and within us. This is not however, just a history of what has come before. Sachs also looks toward the future and the steps we can take now to put our relationship with germs back into balance. She examines the future of antibiotics and new drugs and technologies that might be used to replace them and methodologies that will selectively target the bad germs, while leaving the good germs unharmed. She also investigates the practical applications of probiotics and their use in treating just about everything from chronic infections to inflammatory disease.

Good Germs, Bad Germs is an eye-opening and timely book that presents an authoritative overview of the "hygiene hypothesis" as well as man's development, use, and over use of antibiotics. This book is written in a narrative style that is aimed toward a general audience. Sachs explains all scientific and technical aspects referred to in a clear and easily understandable manner without talking down to the reader. As well, for those wishing to delve deeper into this intriguing subject, you'll find Sachs' endnotes a valuable source of information.

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