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The Forgotten Plague: How the Battle Against Tuberculosis Was Won - And Lost Paperback – September 14, 1994


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The Forgotten Plague: How the Battle Against Tuberculosis Was Won - And Lost + The White Plague: Tuberculosis, Man and Society
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1St Edition edition (September 14, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316763810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316763813
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #457,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ryan traces the history of tuberculosis, its apparent cures and contemporary reemergence.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Tuberculosis, Ryan reminds us, is not just a disease of gracefully suffering artists in period costumes. Shockingly, 1.7 billion people worldwide are infected, including 10 million Americans. Aggravated by AIDS and homelessness, new and often drug-resistant cases threaten to unleash what has been called "the greatest public health disaster since the bubonic plague." Ryan, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Physicians and a Member of the New York Academy of Sciences, narrates the history of the search for a cure of this terrifying disease. He describes both the tedious drudgery and the seemingly mystical flashes of insight of an international group of brilliant scientists, including four Nobel Prize winners. They combated a "sinister chameleon" of a disease for which cure after cure was developed, only to be discarded after TB bacteria mutated into new variations that left promising therapies apparently useless. A compelling picture of the process of scientific research as well as a troubling look at an emerging public health crisis, Ryan's book is recommended for all libraries.
- Kathy Arsenault, Univ. of South Florida, St. Petersburg
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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It reads like a novel and is superb!
Pj Lionetti
This story describes the quest of the scientists that were at the basis of finding a cure for tuberculosis.
wilbert bitter
It should be required reading for, well, everyone.
Robin Wolfson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By D. Ross on October 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Tuberculosis killed one billion (yes, billion with a "b") in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries alone. Ryan's masterful work describes the decades-long war against the terrifying disease - a conflict that continues even today. In a manner suitable for the layman and written at the pace of an action novel, he describes the staggering amount of work required to gain even the slightest advantage against the dreadful disease.
From his descriptions of tuberculosis itself ("...once established in the lungs, or the bowel, in the throat, in the kidneys, in the eye, or in the very marrow of the bones, [it] festered on and on, impervious to all efforts to cure it, seemingly indestructible. No antibiotic would ever kill such a germ, protected by its thick impenetrable waxy coat.") to his characterizations of the work of scientists such as Waksman, Schact, Lehmann, and Domagk - Ryan has created a work like no other.
Even these brilliant scientists, attacking the disease in every conceivable way, have only temprarily halted its advance against mankind. Its ability to mutate, resisting all known treatments -in combination with new diseases such as AIDS - have raised the terrifying spectre of a renewed disease capable of killing billions more. Nerve-wracking and enlightening, Ryan's work serves as a clarion call to renewed action against TB.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Francisco Alvarez on March 25, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a lung doctor coming from a country where tuberculosis is a common disease I thought this book was going to be interesting. I was wrong. It was fascinating! I made the mistake of start reading it while I was working on some professional projects. The result was several nights of poor sleep just because I started my reading after finishing my work late at night and I just could not stop reading it! I am going to buy several copies for some of my coleagues. This is a great book
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robin Wolfson VINE VOICE on March 13, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Certainly the great hallmark of modern civilization is the dramatically increased ease of communication, and it is this ease of communication which has so changed the face of modern science. It is fitting, then, that Dr. Ryan begins his book with a brief history of tuberculosis leading up to Koch's epic-making lecture on 24 August 1882 announcing his discovery of the cause of tuberculosis. Towards the end of the chapter he quotes the protest of an editor at the New York Times about the delay in receiving the news in America; the editor wrote, "it is safe to say that the little pamphlet which was left to find its way through the slow mails . . . outweighed in importance and interest for the human race all the press dispatches which have been flashed under the Channel since the date of the delivery of the address - March 24."

As the book proceeds, we see the effect of the growth of the worldwide scientific establishment and the network of scientists and ideas that have led the battle against the "white plague." As fascinating and compelling as is the subject of the search for the cure for tuberculosis, I think an even more important theme of the book is just exactly how science works. We see Paul Erlich influenced by Koch's lecture and the coincidental development of the sanatorium movement. We see Selman Waksman working in soil microbiology and taking as an assistant the young René Dubos who, reading an article by Winogradsky, would drastically change his career to focus on what he described as "the biochemical unity of life" and what would come to be known as the ecology of disease and health. We see Oswald Avery (see "The Great Influenza" by John M. Barry) assisted partially by Dubos in discovering "that DNA was the wonder chemical of heredity and life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By W. A. Hunnicutt on July 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
Frank Ryan writes overly long about the attempts to fight tuberculosis. Admittedly, Ryan is no historian. His work bounces along from one aspect of the stuggle to another, while only the most tenuous relation is suggested. He bogs down in the details of tangential aspects of the story and it is only in reflective hindsight that one begins to find continuity.

Ryan's book traces the many threads of research that produced ever-increasing breakthroughs in controlling tuberculosis; the researchers involved operated more or less independently, unaware of each other's existence and progress, thus affording little opportunity for cooperation.

Ryan's complicated story of the many contributions to tuberculosis research perhaps seems mildly disheartening. The search for treatments for tuberculosis spread across a far greater geography and period of time. The presentation of these various groups researching tuberculosis, brought together in a single tome with decades of work artificially telescoped into a few hundred pages, blurs the reality that researchers at the time did not see the opportunities for cooperation with the clarity of hindsight. In fairness, Ryan did try to present scientists laboring, incognizant of each other's work, isolated by oceans and political ideologies. However the petty struggles and backstabbing over patent rights, royalties and scientific prestige suggest baser motives than one would like to attribute to persons engaged in saving mankind from a deadly disease.
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