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Allies and Enemies: How the World Depends on Bacteria (FT Press Science) Hardcover – July 22, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0137015467 ISBN-10: 0137015461 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: FT Press Science
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (July 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0137015461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0137015467
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #740,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Not surprisingly, people frequently view "germs" as enemies of humankind because media coverage usually involves an outbreak of disease. Writer and microbiologist Maczulak attempts to refute this perception by explaining how microbes such as bacteria are not only important for industry but also essential for human survival.The extensive bibliography encompasses Internet resources and classical readings as well as some professional references on the subject." Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates and general readers. -- R. Adler, University of Michigan, Dearborn. Reprinted with permission from CHOICE, copyright by the American Library Association.  

About the Author

Anne Maczulak grew up in Watchung, New Jersey, with a plan to become either a writer or a biologist. She completed undergraduate and master’s studies in animal nutrition at The Ohio State University, her doctorate nutrition and microbiology from the University of Kentucky, and conducted postdoctoral studies at the New York State Department of Health. She also holds an MBA from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.


Anne began her training as a microbiologist studying the bacteria and protozoa of human and animal digestive tracts. She is one of a relatively small group of microbiologists who were trained in the Hungate method of culturing anaerobic microbes, meaning microbes that cannot live if exposed to oxygen. In industry, Anne worked in microbiology laboratories at Fortune 500 companies, developing anti-dandruff shampoos, deodorants, water purifiers, drain openers, septic tank cleaners, and disinfectants--all products that relate to the world of microbes. She conducted research in the University of California-San Francisco’s dermatology group, testing wound-healing medications, antimicrobial soaps, and foot fungus treatments.


In graduate school, other students and a few professors had seemed nonplussed when Anne filled her elective schedule with literature courses. Anne was equally surprised to learn that so many of her peers in science found pursuit of the arts to be folly. In 1992, with more than a decade of “growing bugs” on her resume, she packed up and drove from the east coast to California to begin a new career as a writer while keeping microbiology her day job. And yes, it was possible to be both a writer and a scientist.


While toiling evenings on a mystery novel set in a microbiology lab, Anne continued working on various laboratory projects intended either to utilize good microbes or eliminate deadly ones. A decade later, Anne began her career as an independent consultant and has successfully blended writing with biology. Although the mystery novel never made it off the ground, Anne has since published ten books on microbes and environmental science. She focuses on making highly technical subjects easy to understand. From her unique perspective, Anne inspires her audiences into wanting to know more about microbes, and perhaps even like them.


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Customer Reviews

If you read this book, you will also know why it's true (if you do not already know).
M. L Lamendola
She explores both the promise and benefits of antibiotics as well as the darker side as bacteria mutate into more resistant forms.
Steven K. Szmutko
I found this book to be both interesting and informative as well as accessible by general readers.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By M. L Lamendola VINE VOICE on August 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ms. Maczulak did an excellent job with this book. It's factually correct and well-written, making it both pleasurable and educational to read. That's really saying something, considering that college texts on the subject of microbiology have a reputation for being rather challenging to read and understand. It's not that those books are badly done, it's that the topic is complex.

Ms. Maczulak removes the complexity to bring us a good overview of the role of bacteria in our lives and in the larger world around us. She exposes and corrects many myths, while also keeping her narrative in a framework that moves forward and helps the reader get "the big picture." Without crossing it, she walks the fine line between eye-glazing detail and enough detail to be a rich read. My eyes didn't glaze over once, during my reading of this book.

When I started reading this book, I thought it would be a good academic refresher. Before I finished reading it, that thought changed entirely. I think for most people, it is essential reading. A small example explains why.

Before I finished reading this book, I heard a radio commercial (I listen to the radio for a total of maybe 3 hours per month) for a product that should not be on the market. The commercial encourages parents to buy a chlorinated product for the kids to take to school and wipe everything with. Deliberately poisoning people is illegal, but for some reason if you poison kids with this product you won't go to jail for it. The hype is that this protects children from nasty bacteria. Parents who don't understand what is profoundly wrong with this product and why it's also unnecessary need to start educating themselves about the real world. This book provides a good start in that direction.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Veil_Lord VINE VOICE on September 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Don't take the title of my review as a slur, it's actually a complement. A sharp high school student wouldn't have a problem reading this book and an adult won't feel either talked down to or bored. Every student should read a book like this in school.

I think a lot of people in general need to read books like this for a little perspective. When you're at the gym, at the mall, or at work, you'll see people putting on hand sanitizer after they touch anything and freaking out about germs. Watch some TV for a short time and you're bound to see some product that will protect your kids because it's antibiotic implying you're obviously a bad parent if you don't run out and buy it right now! Woo...the germs are gonna get ya! Well, no they're probably not. You have this thing called an immune system that tends to handle most of that kind of thing and it pre-dates these products by quite a while. That's not to say the stuff is useless, just that soap and water and avoiding touching your face are still your best bet. People would probably be a lot less afraid of "germs", if they better understood bacteria.

The book touches on a number of ideas, like children possibly having more allergies now because the environments we grow up in are more sterile than a generation ago, thus less exposure early to bacteria. It also discusses the "bio-film" on every human's body. The layer of bacteria already on your skin helps to prevent your getting sick, because new bacteria you pick up from doorknobs, pencils, whatever have to contend with those already present. A wide variety of ways in which bacteria support us and other life are also mentioned.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By P. Mann VINE VOICE on March 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was not sure what to expect from this book. The subtitle, "How the World Depends on Bacteria," made me think this might be for the layperson. After all, it's rather basic knowledge, I thought, the popularity of antibacterial soaps aside, that we depend on bacteria. So I had hoped for a book written for laypeople but substantial enough to keep the interest of an intelligent audience.

What I found was a surfeit of technical terms that made the reading rather slow and dull. If I were a biology student, I would expect to have to know the terms. As a well-educated general reader, I would prefer a book that proceeds more smoothly, that neither condescends nor preaches, and that conveys a sense of enthusiasm. In typing this list, I think of books like Richard Rhodes Deadly Feasts, which I read as a complete layperson and from which I learned a great deal, or Richard Coniff's Spineless Wonders, which so patently conveys the author's enthusiasm that it's nearly impossible not to share it.

This book, however, is dry, just this side of a textbook. There are, from time to time, portions that are fascinating, but for the most part, I felt as if I were in a biology class. That's not a bad thing, of course, if one wants to take biology. I was hoping for more about bacteria in action (as, for example, in the production of cheeses, pasteurization of them, and the diseases that arise from them) in relevant, real-world settings and less about the fundamentals and terminology. Others, of course, may want to read this for just the opposite reason, and to them, I commend the book.
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