Pfeiffer’s indignation and constant lacing of the text with tick names and numbers, disease counts, and tragic cases create...

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LYME

THE FIRST EPIDEMIC OF CLIMATE CHANGE

An alert about the dangers of Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.

Veteran investigative reporter Pfeiffer (Crazy in America: The Hidden Tragedy of our Criminalized Mentally Ill, 2007) lives in New York state, not far from the Connecticut town that gave its name to a bacterial infection a generation ago. Not only is there scant government research on Lyme disease, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health assert that the disease is easy to diagnose and cured with a course of antibiotics. They deny the existence of chronic Lyme disease, in which some patients experience painful joints and even heart disease or neurological problems, including cognitive declines. The agencies also inveigh against treating such patients with further courses of antibiotics. In page after page of data and interviews with patients, advocates, and researchers around the world, Pfeiffer builds a strong case: Diagnosis is not easy, many patients do not have the bull’s-eye rash associated with the tick bite, and the CDC’s diagnostic criteria are problematic. Worse, the prevalence of Lyme is rapidly growing worldwide. Thanks to global warming, tick species are spreading farther and finding ample numbers of small mammals to infect. The species that carry Lyme often carry other pathogens, a condition that seems to increase their vigor, while their saliva contains anti-coagulants, anesthetics, and immunosuppressive agents that enable the fiendishly small blood-suckers to hang on. Indeed, the author suggests that an anti-saliva agent might be more effective than an anti-Lyme vaccine. One difficulty with a vaccine is that the Lyme bacterium is a spirochete (like the agent for syphilis), a bug able to lie low and hide from the immune system in tissues as a persister.

Pfeiffer’s indignation and constant lacing of the text with tick names and numbers, disease counts, and tragic cases create a high emotional pitch that can be exhausting, but the basic facts she sets forth are credible, and they deserve immediate attention.

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61091-844-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Island Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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