Friday, June 11, 2010
Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA by Maryn McKenna (Book Review)
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.
In a media-saturated age that can't wait to report about the next pandemic, sometimes it's hard to know which looming diseases to take seriously. When I mentioned I was reading Superbug to a friend, he questioned the threat of MRSA and contended that, if it was so serious, I should probably know some people who had MRSA. I considered the claim but disputed the logic. I personally don't know anyone with HIV or Juvenile Diabetes, but that doesn't mean those conditions aren't serious. Ultimately, I think the facts and cases Maryn McKenna presents in Superbug speak for themselves, and we need to take MRSA seriously.
Superbug - Offical Website