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Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 23, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (March 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141655727X
  • ASIN: B0048ELEUO
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,389,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Via several real-life firsthand accounts, public-health journalist McKenna lays bare, often all too graphically, the ravages of a disease with the potential to do grievous international harm because there is virtually no known treatment for it. Although humans and staphylococci have been close travelling companions virtually forever, and those pesky germs occasionally make our travels difficult, once upon a time scientists believed they had discovered the key to stifling staph infections forever: antibiotics. Case closed. But not so fast. There is a particularly feisty, methicillin-resistant strain, staphylococcus aureus, aka MRSA, that apparently has plans to outlast and outlive by outsmarting just about every known antibiotic thrown at it. First thought to reside solely within the walls of hospitals and to affect those with severely compromised immune systems, MRSA surreptitiously evolved a street persona. With the bacteria’s quick-changing, deadly brothers lurking in hospitals, gyms, and locker rooms, experts at the epicenter of research report that the hunt for a vaccine may be a last-ditch strategy to fend off a wily predator. --Donna Chavez


“Like a modern-day Rachel Carson, Maryn McKenna sounds a powerful alarm about the insurgency of a deadly infection lurking in our schools, our gyms and even our food. Antibiotics are losing their life-saving powers because of our injudicious use that has helped spawn these increasingly invincible pathogens. By connecting the dots, Superbug may give us the early warning we need to prevent an uncontrollable epidemic.”

- Shelley A. Hearne, DrPH, Managing Director, Pew Health Group, The Pew Charitable Trusts

“Maryn McKenna tracks the harrowing biography of MRSA with all the skills of a first-rate investigative journalist. Superbug reads like a thriller and is presented in a nuanced and eloquent prose that is as infectious as the microbe it details.”

-Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine, The University of Michigan; author of When Germs Travel

“Maryn McKenna combines her talent for remarkable storytelling with compellingly detailed, breathtaking science writing. A first-rate work!”

- Paul Offit, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; author of Autism’s False Prophets

“A well described and documented narrative of an important emerging infectious disease which goes behind the tabloid headlines to show the tragedy and toll of a frightening illness and a public health challenge.”

- Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH, Vice President for Global Health and Director of the Emory Global Health Institute, Emory University, former Director, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Superbug is essential reading for anyone going to the hospital or working in healthcare. Too often even top doctors dismiss the threat, saying ‘the germs are everywhere.’ Patients and medical professionals should read this book and take its lessons seriously.”

- Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D., Founder, Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths

Customer Reviews

I Highly recommend this disturbing book!
George D. Smith
Ms. McKenna not only gives us the facts about MRSA, she captures us with her heart wrenching stories of the pain this "superbug" has caused in so many lives.
Bonnie Shoemaker
Based on my background in biological science, I was very, very excited to get this book, and I was not disappointed.
David M. Manly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By David M. Manly on March 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Based on my background in biological science, I was very, very excited to get this book, and I was not disappointed.

Maryn McKenna's new book SUPERBUG, deals with the development of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is also known as a superbug, it is multiple-drug resistant and impressively deadly. It takes massive amounts of drugs with often serious side-effects to even have a chance of beating it.

Historically, MRSA was a disease of hospitals, and only in people that were already suffering from a weakened immune system - but that is no longer the case. A new strain has come up that affects people who have not had any contact with hospitals. It is known as community-acquired MRSA, and is surprisingly lethal.

McKenna's style is aptly suited to this type of book, as there is a lot of medical jargon that requires a deft hand to explain to people with little to no knowledge in that particular area. This is accomplished through what I can only describe as a massive amount of interviews and research with individuals whose lives have been affected by MRSA.

This book raises a lot of issues regarding the sanitary procedures performed at hospitals, the over-prescription of antibiotics in both people and animals, and the sheer speed in which MRSA can adapt.

Reading this book may seem like some sort of scare tactic, and it is. But it is the sort of thing people NEED to hear. McKenna uses people whose lives have been affected by MRSA to tell the story, and only breaks away from the narrative for context.

Simply put, it is a superbly written science book that reads like a novel.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Shoemaker on May 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I discovered Ms. McKenna's book via an NPR radio interview. I'm a registered nurse and had been helping an old friend for the last nine months fight CA-MRSA. He has been reinfected over six times in those nine months. When I began reading Superbug, I could barely finish one chapter at a sitting. The information contained in this book is so powerful and well researched, I had to let it all soak in before moving on to the next chapter. Ms. McKenna not only gives us the facts about MRSA, she captures us with her heart wrenching stories of the pain this "superbug" has caused in so many lives. I highly recommend reading this book and taking the precautions necessary to decrease the spread of this dreaded bacteria.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Evan Henke on March 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Superbug, along with Beating Back the Devil, cements Maryn McKenna's status as one of the most readable and enjoyable writers of our time covering infectious disease topics. This book details the public health threat of MRSA through the use of frightening individual experiences, behind-the-scenes research narratives, and well-written explanations of the ever-changing epidemiology of MRSA, all in eloquent yet readable detail.

I believe there is something new in this book for anyone, whether it is read by a physician, investigator, nurse, student, or even the armchair philosopher. I'd absolutely recommend the book to anyone working in a clinical science or practice that deals with MRSA on a daily basis, or to any students considering careers in the health sciences! After working for 2.5 years side-by-side with Staph researchers in an MRSA lab, I must say I was quite impressed with how completely McKenna recounts the unfolding of the MRSA epidemic and updates the reader with current topics in MRSA research and epidemiology. It really put my work and education into context in a few hundred pages, and I have no doubt others will gain from reading this book!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Frank Gullo on June 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Often, the books that frighten me the most aren't horror novels. Instead, I'm more likely to be disturbed after reading texts detailing real-life threats, especially dangers that are under reported and not taken seriously.

So it's probably no surprise that Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA scared the hell out of me. As the text's title indicates, Superbug is all about MRSA, a bacterium responsible for a range of difficult-to-treat infections. MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus but is commonly labeled as staph, or, more appropriately, drug-resistant staph. It is especially dangerous because is has developed resistance to many antibiotic drugs that are normally used to counter bacterial infections. In this sense, MRSA has become more drug-resistant in part because of our societal overuse of antibiotics.

There are a variety of strains and manifestations of MRSA, from minor skin infections to severe necrotizing or flesh bacteria syndrome. The fear with MRSA, as author Maryn McKenna conveys, is that we may be approaching a MRSA strain, or superbug, that's untreatable.

The book doesn't offer much consolation or conclude with a silver bullet that's on its way to defeat MRSA, although the author does touch on some of the current research exploring MRSA vaccines and mentions some of the tactics used in preventive MRSA screening.

As a reading experience, Superbug was accessible and well-paced. The author smartly alternated between true stories of people with MRSA to more technical passages that delved into the history and science behind the bug. There were some spots that were a little too esoteric for me, but, overall, Maryn McKenna is a fluid and accomplished writer and I learned a lot.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Maryn McKenna is a journalist, author and blogger who writes about domestic and global public health, infectious disease, and food policy, but it's OK with her if you just call her Scary Disease Girl, since almost everyone else does.

She has reported from inside a field hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, a village on Thailand's west coast that was erased by the Indian Ocean tsunami, a CDC team investigating the anthrax-letter attacks on Capitol Hill, a graveyard within the Arctic Circle that held victims of the 1918 flu, a malaria hospital in Malawi, an isolation ward for multi-drug resistant TB in Vietnam and a polio-eradication team in India. She untangled birds from mist nets during the first US outbreaks of West Nile virus, triggered the first Congressional hearings on Gulf War Syndrome, and pried loose enough hidden history at a closed nuclear-weapons plant to help local residents win a nuclear-harm lawsuit against the US government.

She is the author of the newly published SUPERBUG: The Fatal Menace of MRSA (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, 2010), an investigation of the global epidemic of drug-resistant staph, and BEATING BACK THE DEVIL: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (FP/S&S, 2004), a narrative history of the CDC's disease detectives that was named a Top Science Book by Amazon and an Outstanding Academic Title by the American Library Association.

She is a blogger for Wired, writes for SELF, More, Health and other national magazines, and is a regular contributor to the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Previously, she was a staff reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Boston Herald, and the Cincinnati Enquirer, and a contributing writer at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy of the University of Minnesota.

She has a bachelor's from Georgetown University, a master's from Northwestern University, and has won numerous journalism awards. She has been a fellow with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the East-West Center of Honolulu, the Knight-Wallace Program of the University of Michigan, Harvard Medical School and the Casey Journalism Center for Children and Families at the University of Maryland. She teaches science writing in the U.S. and Asia.

She lives in Minneapolis and Atlanta, and occasionally in Maine and France, and almost always has latex gloves and a face-mask somewhere close by