Sound research and expert experience create an illuminating work on the potential benefits of interferon.

THE CASE FOR INTERFERON

A scientist advocates the revival of an antiviral cancer treatment popular in the 1980s.

Cummins, a microbiologist and veterinarian, has produced an astute, thought-provoking, and convincing testament to the revitalization of low-dose interferon administration. The goal of his book—written with former attorney Heckenlively—is to renew clinical and public interest in the drug, which came into prominence in the early ’80s. Despite proven antiviral and anti-cancer properties in animals, the treatment failed to surpass the scientific community’s lofty expectations for it in human trials. Cummins, whose narrative perspective predominantly anchors the work, first charts his own interest and history in veterinary medicine and how his distinguished career in immunological research science prepared him to become a leading voice in interferon application advocacy for animals as well as humans. The volume describes interferon as a naturally occurring protein found in the human body during a viral infection that has been resoundingly beneficial for animals in veterinary arenas as well as helpful in providing broad protection to humans by shortening the duration of viral shedding. Although early Japanese and Russian studies bolstered low-dose interferon as an influenza prophylaxis, its widespread usage never materialized. Cummins embarked on a career researching oral human interferon and authoring many articles on its efficacy in trials. This study-heavy work shares the wealth of more than five decades of research backing interferon’s use, including controversial success stories, like a veterinarian who treated himself with the drug after contracting HIV; case studies with compromised patients; and media coverage. Parts of the narrative utilize scientific jargon that may confuse some lay readers, though others will find themselves persuaded by the sensible and science-supported arguments. Concluding chapters offer an update on the current state of more recent clinical trials and an enlightening lesson on viral behavior and how the immune system’s reaction to classic coronaviruses could prepare the human body’s defense mechanisms against SARS-CoV-2. Cummins gets personal in the closing pages, admitting to suffering from Parkinson’s disease and planning to relinquish his participation in the effort to reawaken interest in interferon usage. He asserts that interferon has its share of detractors who believe the drug “threatens to upend the pharmaceutical bottom line.”

Sound research and expert experience create an illuminating work on the potential benefits of interferon.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5107-6550-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Skyhorse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

THE MEATEATER GUIDE TO WILDERNESS SKILLS AND SURVIVAL

The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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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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