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Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA

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Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA
Medicine disregarded it. Antibiotics can't control it. MRSA drug-resistant staph may be the most frightening epidemic since AIDS. By Maryn McKenna. (Free Press: 2010. Pg. 271). ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-5727-2

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - April 22, 2010

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a bacterial infection that is classified as one of the many 'staph' infections. Unlike run of the mill 'staph' infections, MRSA infections not only maim hundreds of thousands of people each year, but it also kills an estimated 19,000 Americans a year! MRSA infections are also resistant to most main line antibiotics, making it an extremely hard infection to treat. In the past, MRSA infections were confined to hospitals, nursing homes, and other locations where immune suppressed and immune weakened people tended to congregate. Now MRSA is found everywhere, from locker rooms and child care facilities to prisons and petting zoos, and it is attacking the both healthy and ill individuals.

MRSA infections are resistant to most antibiotics. Often the only treatment available is to excise the infected tissue - often resulting in amputations or gross disfigurement of the infected individual. All too often even these draconian measures are ineffective and the infected individual dies. In Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA, Maryn McKenna provides an eye open expose on what, exactly, MRSA is, as well as how it is spread and treated. She explains, by providing heart wrenching case studies, the very real cost that MRSA extracts from its victims. She also investigates the role that the overuse of antibiotics have had on the spread of MRSA, as well as the large amounts of antibiotics that are found in the food and water that we consume.

McKenna is a renowned and award-winning science writer and journalist. In writing this book she has not only consulted numerous scientific journals and other sources, but she also interviewed more than 200 informants that provided scientific evidence to this story, MRSA victims and their families, as well as health care workers and other professionals who are on the front lines of the war against MRSA.

Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA is an alarming book, and rightly so. As McKenna points out in the book, and the books subtitle states, "MRSA - drug-resistant staph - may be the most frightening epidemic since AIDS." Without sensationalizing the threat, McKenna provides an even handed and well-researched account of the threat posed by MRSA. Along the way she clearly and concisely outlines what MRSA is, and the factors they may have contributed to it becoming such a dangerous infection.

McKenna has a knack for taking what could be a complicated subject and making it accessible to lay readers. As well, she writes with the flair of a novelist, making the pages just fly by as you are drawn deeper and deeper into this real life medical thriller. Complete with detailed end-notes, this book is a must-read not only for policy makers, health care professionals, teachers, prison officials, and anybody else who might come into contact, on an official basis with MRSA, but it is also a must-read for every concerned citizen who is interested in taking a proactive role in their own health care and safety. In short, I highly recommend Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA to, well, everyone!

Related Reviews:

Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, by Maryn McKenna
McKenna chronicles the nail-biting story of the men and women who comprise the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS). The EIS is an elite fraternity whose members are the front line forces that are sent out to identify and control an outbreak when the CDC is informed of a burgeoning epidemic or suspected act of biological terrorism.

Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World, by Jessica Snyder Sachs.
This book presents a detailed overview of the "hygiene hypothesis" and the history of the development, use, and over use of antibiotics.

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