Whereas many popular books on microbes focus on contemporary pathogens and emerging epidemics, Arno Karlen's Man and Microbes provides a historical look at the coevolution of humans and microorganisms. Karlen speculates that infections are integral to the process of life itself, that the mitochondria in every animal cell, for instance, are likely descendants of infectious agents. He then traces the development of man from primitive hunter-gatherer to urban dweller to world traveler, pointedly analyzing how socio-ecological changes have contributed to the changing incidence of disease. With amazing detail, Karlen describes the origins of historical plagues (smallpox, cholera, influenza, polio, and others) as well as the emergence of scourges such as hemorrhagic fever (Ebola and its cousins), Lyme disease, Legionnaires' disease, and even the deep mysteries of retroviruses such as HIV.
From Publishers Weekly
Karlen (Napoleon's Glands) has produced a disturbing, succinct, compelling report on the current global crisis of new and resurgent diseases. Covering cholera, leprosy, cancer, AIDS, viral encephalitis, lethal Ebola fever, streptococcal "flesh-eating" infections and a host of other killers, he shows how the present wave of diseases arose with drastic environmental change, wars, acceleration of travel, the breakdown of public health measures, and microbial adaptation. In the book's first half, he entertainingly charts humanity's relationship with microbes, from the earliest hominids' probable encounters with bubonic plague to hunter-gatherers' comparative good health, the explosion of sickness in Bronze Age cities and the spread of infections with trade, conquest and empire. Karlen concludes that today's epidemics are part of an ancient pattern-whenever people make radical changes in their lifestyle and environment, disease flourishes. He suggests that improved surveillance could help defuse the crisis we face now.
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Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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