Title: Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure
Author: Jim Murphy & Alison Blank
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Medical, Non-fiction
Dates read: 14th – 17th March 2020
Format: Non-fictional text
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
5th sentence, 74th page: There was absolutely no scientific basis for this assertion.
A killer as old as the human race has been humankind’s constant, lethal companion. This killer was nameless and faceless for thousands of years, mysteriously striking in endless waves and claiming millions upon millions of lives. Then the disease was given a name – tuberculosis, or TB – and when the microscopic TB germ was finally identified, scientists hoped to conquer it. yet, in spite of medical advances and the discovery of several promising “cures”, this invincible microbe continues to change and flourish among us today.
I read this at the beginning of the insanity attached to COVID-19 in Australia. When toilet paper was being hoarded and people were just generally going nuts. And it kind of felt like a really good time to read about a microbe based disease. Alright, there are a lot of differences between TB and Corona, but there were also SO many similarities!
I do have a background in biology (although I focus on environmental biology), so my basic understanding of diseases such as TB and others is fairly sound. Yet, even if I didn’t have this background, I would find this book incredibly informative. Murphy and Blank are able to inform the reader about the journey of TB without getting too scientific. A great read for those who want to find out more but don’t have the science background.
The history of a prominent disease is always going to be kind of fascinating. Not just because it’s the history of an important aspect of science (discovering that microbes can in fact cause death), but also because it provides an insight into the people and cultures of the time. From the beginning of Sanitoriums and the isolation of patients to the understanding of contagions… the discovery of TB and the race to find a cure were a fascinating story.
To end out this book, the status of TB today is talked about. And, more importantly, it’s potential to mutate into an untreatable version. Something which is always a risk when dealing with a disease that can mutate. It serves as both a message of hope for the treatment in the future, and a pretty dire warning as to what could be just around the corner. A little scary, but definitely something worth thinking about. Especially in the global climate today.