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Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them [Hardcover]

Brad Spellberg M.D. , David Gilbert
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 22, 2009 1591027500 978-1591027508 1
Antibiotic-resistant microbes infect more than 2 million Americans and kill over 100,000 each year. They spread rapidly, even in such seemingly harmless places as high school locker rooms, where they infect young athletes. Throughout the world, many more people are dying from these infections. Astoundingly, as antibiotic resistant infections are skyrocketing in incidence—creating a critical need for new antibiotics—research and development of new antibiotics has ground to a screeching halt!
In Rising Plague, Dr. Brad Spellberg—an infectious diseases specialist and member of a national task force charged with attacking antibiotic resistant infections—tells the story of this potentially grave public health crisis. The author shares true and very moving patient stories to emphasize the terrible frustration he and his colleagues have experienced while attempting to treat untreatable infections, not to mention the heart-break and tragedy that many of these patients’ families had to endure. Dr. Spellberg corrects the nearly universal misperception that physician misuse of antibiotics and "dirty hospitals" are responsible for causing antibiotic-resistant infections. He explains the true causes of antibiotic resistance and of the virtual collapse of antibiotic research and development. Most important, he advocates ways to reverse this dire trend and instead bolster the production of desperately needed new and effective antibiotics. He also warns against complacency induced by the decades-old assumption that some miracle drug will always be available to ensure the continuation of our "antibiotic era." If we do nothing, we run the risk of inviting a bleak future when infectious diseases will once again reign supreme. Then many of the medical breakthroughs that we now take for granted—from routine surgery and organ transplants to intensive care and battlefield medicine—might all be threatened.
This crucial and timely book is lucidly written in terms that everyone can understand. It issues a call to action, explaining how, through a strong and concerted effort, we can all help prevent this nightmare scenario from happening. By following this courageous doctor’s recommendations, we can assure that magic bullets will be there for our families and us in the future.

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Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them + The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance
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Editorial Reviews


As seen on The Doctors, PBS Frontline, and Katie!

"Clear and concise, with a good mix of dramatic (and, at times, tragic) examples and hard statistics.... The book ends with an admonition to take the threat of drug-resistant bacteria seriously; when you’ve finished reading, you’ll find it impossible to disagree.” 
-San Francisco Book Review 

“This readable, well-written volume will resonate with a diverse audience, It provides an excellent review of the problems associated with antibiotic resistance, explains the causes, and recommends solutions to encourage discovery and development of new antibiotics. Highly recommended.”

"Avoiding medical jargon, this fast-paced call to action should be read by anyone concerned about our medical future. Highly recommended.”
-Library Journal 

About the Author

Brad Spellberg, MD (Los Angeles, CA) is associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is based in the Divisions of General Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He was featured on an Emmy award-winning episode of NOVA called "Rise of the Superbugs." He is the author (with Carlos Ayala, MD) of the popular Boards and Wards series of medical review books.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1 edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591027500
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591027508
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Spellberg is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He received his BA in Molecular Cell Biology-Immunology in 1994 from UC Berkeley. He then attended medical school at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, where he received numerous academic honors, including serving as the UCLA AOA Chapter Co-President, and winning the prestigious Stafford Warren award for the topic academic performance in his graduating class. Dr. Spellberg completed his Residency in Internal Medicine and subspecialty fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he received the Department of Medicine Subspecialty Fellow of the Year award.

In addition to his patient care, teaching, and administrative responsibilities, Dr. Spellberg is an NIH-funded scientific investigator, whose research focuses on using the immune system to prevent and/or treat infections. He has worked to develop a vaccine that targets the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus and the fungus Candida, which are the second and third most common causes of bloodstream infections. The vaccine is now entering clinical trials. Dr. Spellberg is also developing genetically engineered white blood cells that recapitulate neutrophil functions and can be used to overcome the technical barriers to neutrophil transfusion therapy for neutropenic infections. Most recently, Dr. Spellberg's laboratory has begun focusing on the immunology of Acinetobacter infections, including attempting to define a vaccine for this bacterium. He also is a scientific adviser for Zimek Technologies, which has exciting technology to improve disinfection of hospital rooms.

Dr. Spellberg established the first auditable, peer-reviewed dataset that confirms the decline in new antibiotic development over the last two decades, underscoring the need for development of new immune-based therapies for infections. He has worked with staff members at the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) to attempt to bring attention to the problems of increasing drug resistance and decreasing new antibiotics. His dataset regarding new drug development has been a cornerstone of the IDSA's white paper, Bad Bugs, No Drugs, and has been cited extensively in medical literature and on capital hill. He is a Fellow in the IDSA and joined the IDSA's Antimicrobial Availability Task Force (AATF) to continue working on this critical problem. As a member of the AATF, he has first-authored consensus IDSA position papers on the appropriate clinical trial designs for infectious diseases.

Dr. Spellberg is the author of Rising Plague, which he wrote to inform and educate the public about the crisis in antibiotic resistant infections and lack of antibiotic development. He is also the author (along with Carlos Ayala) of the popular Boards and Wards series of medical review books.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is an era ending? December 22, 2009
My parents lived in the time when antibiotics won out over bacterial infection. My very real fear is that they will live to see bacteria win again. Dr. Spellberg describes what that time was like, when capricious infections would strike at healthy adults and cripple or kill them in just a few days. More to the point, he describes what this time is like, when he sees drug-resistant infections doing the same, now, even in the most advanced of western hospitals.

Antibiotic resistance follows inevitably from antibiotic use. Every time a new antibiotic appears, billions of bacteria take on the evolutionary problem of dealing with it. Sooner or later, somewhere, one does - and that's all it takes. That one's progeny thrive in the presence of that drug, to the exclusion of all others. Spellberg omits, almost completely, a technical point that makes the problem even worse, though. "Horizontal gene transfer" means that one bacterium can pass its resistance on to others, not just its descendants, and not just within its bacterial species. In particular, one resistant bug can pass resistance on to a bug already resistant to something else, creating a superbug with multi-drug resistance. In rare cases, some pathogen resists all known medications. That's when the infectious disease specialist has to say something that hasn't been said since the dawn of the antibiotic era, "We've tried everything. There is nothing left to try."

Acquired resistance is not just a problem. It must be considered a basic fact of life. All the best policy in the world regarding hand-washing, infection control, and the rest can not change that fact. Instead, the problem must be addressed on the human side, by coming up with new drugs and new ways of using them.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chilling warning September 9, 2009
As a fan of TV's medical drama "House," I've been amazed at the range of diseases and adverse medical conditions of humans, as well as the swiftness of their effects, but I wasn't prepared for the alarming descriptions by Dr. Brad Spellberg in his engrossing book Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them about antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the scary increase in infections and deaths because new antibiotics aren't being developed. If this book doesn't send a chill up your spine, you're probably spineless.

But Spellberg is at the same time hopeful that we can turn things around, and I think his book will be that alarm bell calling attention to this problem. What's more, his moving descriptions of those helped by antibiotics throughout the years, such as the four-year-old girl near death from a staph infection (with photos of her before and after the infection), remind all of us not to be complacent about the future.

I had the privilege of hearing a compelling talk he gave at the Center for Inquiry-L.A. about his book, and readers interested in understanding how antibiotics work on bacteria, which are examples of how fast evolution works, and how to combat this rising plague should not miss this book.
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29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Brief Golden Age of Antibiotics June 4, 2010
Rising Plague was written by Brad Spellberg, MD, a professor of medicine at UCLA. It's about the rise in drug-resistant microbes, and the fact that the drug industry has waning interest in developing new antibiotics. Where he explains the problem, the book is great, as far as it goes. He is good at discussing highly complex subjects in an understandable manner. I learned a lot.

But the important subject of antibiotic use in animals is discussed in just two sentences. In fact, 70% of antibiotics are given to livestock, poultry, fish, shellfish, and pets. He doesn't mention that excrement contains active antibiotics. Plants absorb active antibiotics when the soil is treated with manure. Antibiotics are accumulating in groundwater. Every day, we are receiving small doses of active antibiotics in our water, milk, meat, vegetables, fruit. Some antibiotic molecules are remarkably stable, and can remain active even after being cooked at 273 degrees Fahrenheit. He does not mention these issues.

This daily low-dose exposure certainly hastens the development of drug-resistant microbes. Antibiotics make animals grow faster and larger, so they are very popular among producers of industrial meat. Eliminating or sharply reducing antibiotic use on animals is not mentioned in the book. The meat industry has vast political power. If we ignore the animal issue, then it makes no sense to spend billions to develop new antibiotics.

Spellberg devotes a single paragraph to the notion that, in the world of antibiotic research, the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. Developing new antibiotics is going to be far more difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. We'll have to discover new, radically different bug-killing paradigms, according to Dr. Alfonso J.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every medical and many a public library needs this December 17, 2009
RISING PLAGUE: THE GLOBAL THREAT FROM DEADLY BACTERIA AND OUR DWINDLING ARSENAL TO FIGHT THEM is packed with information from an infectious diseases specialist and member of a national task force assigned to attack antibiotic resistant infections. From patient case histories to attempts to treat resistant infections and worries about a coming public health crisis, this explains the real causes of antibiotic resistance and the collapse of antibiotic research and development - and offers some solutions. Every medical and many a public library needs this.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Complete
Spellberg provides a cogent thoughtful summary of resistant infections and the need for immediate developmental efforts to discover, design and test new antibiotics to combat the... Read more
Published 25 days ago by JWH13
5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful!
I'm a reporter and I was working on a series about antibiotic resistance. This book provided me with a wealth of information I was able to use in my story. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Caroline Balchunas
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic
As the head an infection control company with 800+ reps, this was the most useful training tool I have found for myself and team. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Bradley Burnam
4.0 out of 5 stars Big pharma stinks
Amazing book, I wish he woud have spoke a bit about things like sida, cryptolepis, got away a tad from reduction science, the reason I say that is because the garbage big-pharma... Read more
Published 5 months ago by ken cummings
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent summary of a critically important issue
Lucid, well-written and argued. Language sufficiently simplified for a non-medical reader. In addition to explicating a position on this issue, the book also contains an excellent... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Patrick Tyler
3.0 out of 5 stars The first half is good at describing the microbial threat....
I don't want to seem petty, but the overtones about global warming didn't ( I feel ) belong. The second half was about the politics involved. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Wayne A. Stanfill Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely interesting but scary book!
Haven' finished yet but I have shared it with other people! It's very interesting but on the other had very scary to think this could happen.
Published 13 months ago by Chelle
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much misunderstanding of economics, not enough medicine.
The author's narrative is fine as long as he stays out of economics, but once he veers into "how do we make more antibiotics," he shows a bias towards a pro-corporate model... Read more
Published 17 months ago by R. K. Norris
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rising Plague
This book is excellent. It is well written and documeted. I had no idea how bad the problem had begung. I think everyone would benefit by reading this book.
Published on November 3, 2010 by Pat
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it, then reject his proposed solution.
Problem: Bad (multi-drug resistant) bugs on the rise, but no new drugs to treat with.
Why? Profits. Read more
Published on April 12, 2010 by George D. Smith
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