VIRUS HUNTER

THIRTY YEARS OF BATTLING HOT VIRUSES AROUND THE WORLD

A virologist's breezy account of a career spent battling deadly diseases in the lab and in the field. Peters, now the chief of special pathogens at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and novelist Olshaker (Blood Race, 1989, etc.) have the knack of writing about T-cells and antibodies with clarity and vigor. Peters's colorful account of his field work in Central America, where as a brand-new doctor he studied tropical viruses with the US Public Health Service, evokes images of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Later he joined the US Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease, and it was as chief of its infectious diseases division that he played a major role in containing the 1989 Reston (Va.) Ebola outbreak that was the subject of Richard Preston's bestseller The Hot Zone. Peters, no shrinking violet, offers a different perspective on that terrifying episode—one more sympathetic to the army—than the one presented by Preston. And in the immediacy of his narrative, lab work takes on a high level of excitement. In his present position with the CDC, he has major concerns about the threat of lethal new viruses. He warns that if another incident like the outbreak at Reston were to occur today we would not be much better prepared. He worries, too, about biological terrorism, for his years with the army have made him aware of its potential horrors. Peters offers some concrete suggestions for how to prepare for these eventualities, such as global surveillance and the establishment of hospital procedures for large-scale emergencies. He also urges that scientists get a better handle on viruses and work out the basics of a vaccine or drug therapy for each viral family. As entertaining as an adventure novel, but with a deadly serious message, this is a valuable addition to the growing body of literature on emerging viruses. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-48557-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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