THE VIRUS THAT ATE CANNIBALS: Six Great Medical Detective Stories by Carol Eron

THE VIRUS THAT ATE CANNIBALS: Six Great Medical Detective Stories

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Despite the ghastly title--six sprightly you-are-there accounts of scientists laboring to defeat viral diseases. Following a brief general introduction, we meet Max Theiler and his vaccine for yellow fever, once the scourge of West Africa, the Caribbean, and the east coast of the US. On polio, we plunge into the often rancorous dispute between Jonas Salk, whose killed-virus vaccine met with initial success but later was shown to be hazardous, and Albert Sabin, whose attenuated-virus vaccine proved a safer alternative and eventually replaced Salk's. There's the story of Christopher Andrewes of the Common Cold Research Unit; his lifelong investigation of rhinoviruses yielded much knowledge but, alas, no cure for the cold (since his retirement, Andrewes ""has come to prefer insects""). The title piece concerns Carleton Gajdusek and his extraordinary energy in tracking down kuru, a neurological disease afflicting certain neolithic tribes of Papua-New Guinea; kuri was perpetuated, allegedly, by the natives' habit of cooking and eating their dead relatives. Also featured are David Baltimore and Howard Temin, simultaneous discoverers of RNA transcriptase, an enzyme of cancer-causing RNA viruses that synthesizes DNA from RNA (the normal process is the reverse); and the discovery--by a Parke-Davis research team--of adenine arabinoside, the first safe and effective antiviral agent. Pleasantly informative, but not in the same league with Berton RouechÉ's The Medical Detectives.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1981
Publisher: Macmillan