A sad, sobering account with important lessons for medical historians, anthropologists, biologists and, most of all,...

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THE FEVER

HOW MALARIA HAS RULED HUMANKIND FOR 500,000 YEARS

Investigative journalist Shah (The Body Hunters: How the Drug Industry Tests Its Products on the World’s Poorest Patients, 2006, etc.) argues that the mosquito-borne parasite is in control and will remain so.

The author opens with a chapter describing recent outbreaks of malaria in relatively untouched areas, then digs deep into the past to chronicle the role Plasmodium falciparum—the most virulent malarial species—and its kin have played in human history. Warm temperatures and standing water create breeding grounds for the female Anopheles mosquito, the species able to house the parasite’s sexual forms, which are transmitted in saliva when she bites a human or animal host. Environmental and ecological factors are critical in malaria outbreaks. Shah explains how such factors, natural and manmade, have accounted for the rise and fall of empires, battles won or lost, the success or failure of human settlements. The disease only became more devastating following the Industrial Revolution, which brought deforestation and the damming of rivers to create millponds and reservoirs. As the tropics were conquered by Western powers, malaria’s devastation was inflicted unequally in colonies where white occupiers lived on high ground with proper drainage, areas off-limits to the natives below. While quinine was long recognized as malaria therapy, the cause of the disease was not established until the turn of the 20th century—that story by itself makes a fascinating chapter in medical history. Over time, other drugs appeared, as well as insecticides like DDT, once touted as the sure eradicator of malaria…until it wasn’t. Shah’s point is that global-health policymakers, including the Gates Foundation, continue to look for magic bullets to prevent or cure the disease. But there aren’t any. Bed nets and combined therapies are useful, but until the focus is shifted to building native capacity and good governance—in education, schools, roads and clinics—malaria will continue to devastate millions.

A sad, sobering account with important lessons for medical historians, anthropologists, biologists and, most of all, policymakers.

Pub Date: July 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-23001-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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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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Authoritative and, most helpfully, accessible.

HEALING OUR VILLAGE

A SELF-CARE GUIDE TO DIABETES CONTROL

Self-help guide for diabetes sufferers, mostly in question-and-answer format, with an emphasis on helping racial and ethnic minority diabetics.

Coleman is a pharmacist with a doctorate in her specialty, Gavin a Ph.D. and M.D. Aside from acknowledgments and a foreword signed by Gavin alone, their voices and expertise are indistinguishable, offering lucid, simple solutions for diabetes patients. Gavin relates watching his great-grandmother endure debilitating pain as a result of diabetes while he visited her as a youngster. He remembers hearing adults mention that sugar killed her, and he wondered how something that tasted sweet could cause so much harm. As an adult, he realized that his great-grandmother's affliction could be controlled through treatment. The authors focus on Type 2 diabetes, the most common form in minority populations. An estimated 18.2 million Americans are diabetic, with perhaps 5 million unaware of their situation. About 11 percent of U.S. diabetics are African-American, and about 8 percent are Latino. The question-and-answer format begins with an overview section about diabetes, with an emphasis on risk factors. Section Two covers management of the disease, including nutrition, exercise, blood-testing, oral medications and insulin use. In addition, the authors continually recommend smoking cessation, as well as instructing patients on the readiness of self-treatment. Section Three explains the complications—high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease—that could arise if the condition remains untreated or treated ineffectively. The questions in all of the sections are worded simply, and the answers are usually free of medical jargon. Though the sudden shifts in tone and voice are occasionally jarring, the writing remains clear enough to distill the facts. The real downside here, though: patronizing, laughable illustrations that degrade the overall product.

Authoritative and, most helpfully, accessible.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2004

ISBN: 0-9746948-0-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2010

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