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Books & Book Reviews:

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

The dramatic and chilling story of an Ebola virus outbreak in a surburban Washington, D.C. laboratory, with descriptions of frightening historical epidemics of rare and lethal viruses. More hair-raising than anything Hollywood could think of, because it's all true.

(Also available on cassette tape.)


Flu : The Story of the Great Influenza... by Gina Kolata

Feeling tired, achy, and congested? You'll hope not after reading science writer Gina Kolata's engrossing Flu, a fascinating look at the 1918 epidemic that wiped out around 40 million people in less than a year and afflicted more than one of every four Americans. This tragedy, just on the heels of World War I and far more deadly, so traumatized the survivors that few would talk about it afterward. Kolata reports on the scientific investigation of this bizarre outbreak, in particular the attempts to sequence the virus' DNA from tissue samples of victims. She also looks at the social and personal effects of the disease, from improved public health awareness to the loss of productivity. (The disease affected 20- to 40-year-olds disproportionately.)

How could this disease, now almost trivial to healthy young people, have become so virulent? The answer is complex, invoking epidemiology, immunology, and even psychology, but Kolata cuts a swath through medical papers and statistical reports to tell a story of an out-of-control virus exploiting an exhausted world on the brink of transition into modern society. Through letters, interviews, and news reports, she pieces together a cautionary tale that captures the horror of a devastating illness. Research marches onward, but we're still at the mercy of something as simple as the flu. --Rob Lightner


Level 4 : Virus Hunters of the CDC by Joseph McCormick , Susan Fisher-Hoch , Leslie Alan Horvitz

The hemorrhagic viral diseases such as Ebola are among the most elusive and gruesome diseases known to man. Joseph B. McCormick and Susan Fisher-Hoch, a husband and wife team formerly of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, have spent their lives tracking these pathogens, traversing the globe in heroic efforts to confine them and prevent epidemic. In Level 4, McCormick and Fisher-Hoch recount their most gripping and rewarding experiences, and give insight into the stubborn bravery and driving curiosity that compels them to continually put their own lives at risk for the welfare of humanity.


A Dancing Matrix : How Science Confronts Emerging Viruses by Robin Marantz Henig

How did the HIV virus first infect human beings? What plagues are likely to ravage us in the future? This fascinating book sums up all that we currently know about viruses: what they are, how they spread, and how scientists are trying to outwit them. Henig interweaves theory with real-life medical dramas. Illus.

"Viruses from outer space, a la The Andromeda Strain, are not what threaten mankind. Rather, it is the risk of exposure to known enemies -- something akin to influenza -- that could prove catastrophic. In the inevitable cycling between microbe and man, microbes continue to have the upper hand. But we can do something about it, because our own human activities, from international jet travel to urbanization to clearcutting the rain forest, are what turn previously unknown viruses into new global threats. I tried in this book to tell the gripping story of emerging viruses fairly, accurately, and without hysteria. New viruses concern me, but I don't lie awake at night worrying that Ebola is around the corner. " -- The author, Robin Marantz Henig


Viral Pathogenesis by Neal Nathanson, MD

This comprehensive text on viral pathogenesis describes both the development of viral-related disease and the host response. With contributions from an outstanding collection of contributing authors, the book is probably the best single source available on viral pathogenesis. In this sizable volume, you will find chapters on the viral life cycle, disease pathology and mechanisms including viral oncogenesis and virulence. Host immune responses to viruses are also summarized along with a discussion of therapeutic applications. Another chapter of the book examines experimental aspects of pathogenesis including viral genome, message and protein quantification. Classical views of pathogenesis include discussions of poliovirus, parvovirus, retroviruses and reoviruses. The book also contains a great summary of human viral diseases and a discussion of appropriate animal models of those diseases.


In the Shadow of Polio : A Personal and Social History by Kathryn Black

A memoir of her mother's horrifying descent into an iron lung--and into the grave two years later--this powerful, heart wrenching book is also a well-researched and vivid account of the onset of the polio epidemics of the turn of the century and the conquering of the disease in the 1950s. Virginia Black, the author's mother, contracted both bulbar and spinal polio just weeks after the first American children had been inoculated with Jonas Salk's controversial vaccine. Virginia Black did not survive, but her daughter, six years old when her mother died, grew up to write an important first-hand account of this frightening crippler.


Book Cover Image Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce by Douglas Starr

Essence and emblem of life--feared, revered, mythologized, and used in magic and medicine from earliest times--human blood is now the center of a huge, secretive, and often dangerous worldwide commerce. It is a commerce whose impact upon humanity rivals that of any other business--millions of lives have been saved by blood and its various derivatives, and tens of thousands of lives have been lost. Douglas Starr tells how this came to be, in a sweeping history that ranges through the centuries.

 


Book Cover Image Retroviruses by Edited by John M. Coffin, Stephen H. Hughes, Harold E. Varmus

For over 25 years the study of retroviruses has underpinned much of what is known about information transfer in cells and the genetic and biochemical mechanisms that underlie cell growth and cancer induction. Emergent diseases such as AIDS and adult T-cell lymphoma have widened even further the community of investigators directly concerned with retroviruses, a development that has highlighted the need for an integrated understanding of their biology and their unique association with host genomes. This remarkable volume satisfies that need. Written by a group of the field's most distinguished investigators, rigorously edited to provide a seamless narrative, and elegantly designed for clarity and readability, this book is an instant classic that demands attention from scientists and physicians studying retroviruses and the disorders in which they play a role.


Microbe Hunters by Paul De Kruif , F. Gonzalez-Crussi

From the top of today's news, where reports of Ebola and HIV loom large, comes the story of microbes, bacteria, and how disease shaoes our everyday lives and society thrives. The superheroes in this scheme are the scientists, bacteriologists, doctors, and medical technicians who wage active war against bacteria. The new Introduction to this book places this history in a thoroughly modern context.


Microbe Hunters-Then and Now by Hilary Koprowski (Editor), Michael B. A. Oldstone (Editor)

Following in the footsteps of Paul de Kruif's 1926 Microbe Hunters, by documenting some of the remarkable discoveries that have been made in the last 70 years. Instead of being written by a single author, Microbe Hunters - then and now contains 30 chapters, written by some of the scientists who played a role in the discoveries that they are describing. The format involves a pair of authors for each topic, one of whom focuses on the historical chapter and the second on the state of the art chapter.

In summary, this fine book adds much to a reader's historical and general understanding of infectious disease, while relating what generally amounts to a great success story . Future challenges are not ignored, however, and this book will have great appeal not only to infectious disease scientists, but also in members of the lay public with an interest in science. A very interesting and enjoyable read.


Killer Germs : Microbes and Diseases That Threaten Humanity by Barry E. Zimmerman , David J. Zimmerman

Since the beginning of time, diseases have plagued humankind. In their latest book, the authors examine havoc-wreaking diseases of the past and take readers into the fascinating world of germs, microbes, protozoa, and other unwelcome guests to answer seemingly unanswerable questions. Killer Germs is sure to entertain, enlighten, and maybe even frighten.


Deadly Feasts : Tracking the Secrets of a Terrifying New Plague by Richard Rhodes

New and increasingly horrifying viruses are popping up more and more in the news these days. First it was Ebola, a ghastly scourge out of Africa that caused massive hemorrhaging and death. Then necrotizing faschiitis, the "flesh-eating" bug that is really a more virulent form of common strep. The latest plague to capture the headlines is mad cow disease, an affliction that turns the brain into something resembling Swiss cheese. In his new book, Deadly Feasts, Richard Rhodes explores the progress of both disease and the current research initiatives attempting to unravel its mysteries.

Mad cow disease, a form of spongiform encephalopathy, appears related to both scrapie, an ailment of sheep, and a rare human condition, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. One of the first people to posit a connection between eating infected meat and the spread of the disease in both humans and animals was Dr. Carleton Gajdusek, a brilliant, if flawed, physician. Rhodes's account of both doctor and disease reads like a thriller--one with an unsettling twist at the end.


And the Waters Turned to Blood : The Ultimate Biological Threat by Rodney Barker

Don't drink the water. Don't swim in it, fish in it, or even bathe in it. Rodney Barker's book, And the Waters Turned to Blood details the latest plague to visit our shores: Pfiesteria piscicida, the "cell from hell," an aquatic microorganism that causes sufferers to exhibit symptoms similar to Alzheimers or multiple sclerosis. As it follows the fortunes of Dr. JoAnn Burkholder, one of the first scientists to recognize the danger of Pfiesteria, Barker's book reads like a cross between science fiction and conspiracy theory: Dr. Burkholder discovers that excessive pollution in the rivers and coastal waters of the Southeastern United States causes a deadly microorganism to breed like crazy; state and federal government attempts to suppress the report.

An investigative reporter by training, Mr. Barker writes And the Waters Turned to Blood like a thriller, revealing pieces of the puzzle judiciously as he builds tension. Unlike in a literary thriller, however, there is no tidy ending to this story. Readers will be left with the disturbing knowledge that fish are still dying, fishermen are still getting sick, and the potential for disaster in this latest scourge is still unmeasured.


Virus Hunter : Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World by C. J. Peters, Mark Olshaker

Until just a few years ago, horrible viruses such as Ebola, hantavirus, and Marburg were as unknown to most of the world as the places in which they originated. Then Richard Preston wrote The Hot Zone, and suddenly they were front-page news. The past year has seen the arrival of several deadly scourge books. Whether it's mad cow disease in Deadly Feasts or Pfiesteria piscicida, a "cell from hell" in And the Waters Turned to Blood : The Ultimate Biological Threat, some nasty germ seems to pose an imminent threat to all humankind. Now Dr. C. J. Peters, the physician-virologist at the heart of The Hot Zone, weighs in with his own book, Virus Hunter, providing a fresh, authoritative perspective on the subject.

Deadly and disgusting viruses aside, Dr. Peters is a pretty interesting character in and of himself, and the people he knows are even odder. But in and around the blackly amusing anecdotes about virology and virologists are the far from humorous accounts of epidemics. And Dr. Peters has seen them all: the New Mexico hantavirus outbreak in 1993; the Kikwit, Zaire, Ebola epidemic of 1995; as well as earlier cases of Rift Valley fever in Egypt and Junin virus in Argentina. Although Dr. Peters does supply his own doomsday scenario at the end of the Virus Hunter, for the most part he debunks many popular, panicky theories about viruses and emphasizes how contained these scary "new" diseases really are.


Virus Ground Zero : Stalking the Killer Viruses With the Centers for Disease Control by Edward Regis

Ever since Richard Preston's startling book The Hot Zone, killer viruses like Ebola, Lassa, Marburg and the hanta viruses have been huge at the box office--replacing bigger monsters as the scariest of horrors. Regis tells the story of how the Center for Disease Control (CDC) dealt efficiently with the most recent real-life outbreak of Ebola in Kikwit, Zaire in 1995. Although they never found the source of the outbreak, CDC scientists stopped it completely within a month. Initial panic by local medical authorities was stemmed with swift isolation of the infected and the training of staff to deal with this incurable horror using the latest technology: "rubber gloves, plastic gowns and face masks." Regis suggests that the threat from viruses has been overblown; his account of the CDC's heroic efficiency is certainly reassuring.


Hystories : Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture by Elaine Showalter

The press is full of stories: thousands suffer from chronic fatigue or Gulf War Syndrome. There are claims of recovered memories of childhood abuse, or, even more dramatic, alien abductions. Elaine Showalter, a Princeton literature professor and medical historian who has also served as television critic for People magazine, looks at these popular afflictions and concludes that they all are manifestations of hysteria. And it's really nothing new. In Hystories Showalter takes on the history of mass cultural hysteria (witch hunts and mesmerism are two old examples) and discusses today's versions and the attendant publicity. This is a book that's provocative for being so entirely reasonable.


Why We Get Sick : The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolph M. Nesse & George C. Williams

Is our tendency to "fix" our bodies with medicine keeping them from working exactly as they're supposed to? Two pioneers of the emerging science of Darwinian medicine argue that illness is part and parcel of the evolutionary system and as such, may be helping us to evolve towards better adaptation to our environment.

Edward O. Wilson, author of Naturalist: "By bringing the evolutionary vision systematically into one of the last unconquered provinces, Nesse and Williams have devised not only means for the improvement of medicine but fundamental new insights into the human condition."

Synopsis: The answers are in this groundbreaking book by two founders of the emerging science of Darwinian medicine, who deftly synthesize the latest research on disorders ranging from allergies to Alzheimer's and from cancer to Huntington's chorea. Why We Get Sick compels readers to reexamine the age-old attitudes toward sickness.


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Guide to Nontraditional Careers in Science by Karen Young Kreeger

For the past several years the scientific press has been filled with headlines of the overproduction of Ph.D.s and growing unemployment and underemployment of researchers. Packed with practical advice and stories from dozens of scientists and professionals, this guidebook aids the reader in evaluating and finding career opportunities in nonacademic research fields. By demonstrating to the reader that choices are available, this resource provides many examples of fields (e.g., publishing, law, public policy, and business) in which people use their scientific training to nurture a satisfying professional life. Yet it also acknowledges that there are trade-offs involved with any veer from the traditional path. Resource lists tailored to science, along with close to 100 one-on-one interviews with people who have taken various career paths, add to the book's strengths.


Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme by Richard Brodie

If you've ever wondered how and why people become robotically enslaved by advertising, religion, sexual fantasy, and cults - wonder no more. It's all because of "mind viruses," or "memes," and those who understand how to plant them into others minds.

Of course, like all good memes, the ideas in Brodie's book are double-edged swords. They can vaccinate against the effects of cognitive viruses, but could also be used by those seeking power to gain it even more effectively. If you don't want to be left behind in the coevolutionary arms race between infection and protection, read about memes. Such knowledge is as essential today as Machiavelli's The Prince was to Medieval politicians.


Virus X : Tracking the New Killer Plagues Out of the Present and into the Future by Frank Ryan

Who needs Stephen King when there are such real-life horrors as those described in Dr. Frank Ryan's new book, Virus X to keep sleep at bay? Such exotic killers as Ebola and Necrotizing Fasciitis rub elbows with more familiar, if no less potentially lethal, diseases like tuberculosis as Dr. Ryan constructs a well-researched and well-written study that reads more like a thriller than a science book. The heroes are the doctors, nurses, and patients on the frontlines of plague as well as the researchers at laboratories such as the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia; the enemies are the myriad new viruses and virulent new strains of old viruses that are emerging in ever greater numbers as this century wears to a close.

Dr. Ryan's answer for why so many plagues are ravaging the world these days is simple but chilling: a huge explosion in population (6 billion people alive today versus 1.5 billion a century ago) and the resulting destruction of habitats has brought human beings into contact with aggressive viruses that once lived beyond our reach; our global transportation systems spread them. Virus X is not the first book to raise these issues, but it's a comprehensive one, making for gripping, frightening reading.



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