Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure

Overview

This is the story of a killer that has been striking people down for thousands of years:
tuberculosis. After centuries of ineffective treatments, the microorganism that causes
TB was identified, and the cure was thought to be within reach—but drug-resistant
varieties continue to plague and panic the human ...

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Overview

This is the story of a killer that has been striking people down for thousands of years:
tuberculosis. After centuries of ineffective treatments, the microorganism that causes
TB was identified, and the cure was thought to be within reach—but drug-resistant
varieties continue to plague and panic the human race. The “biography” of this deadly
germ, an account of the diagnosis, treatment, and “cure” of the disease over time,
and the social history of an illness that could strike anywhere but was most prevalent
among the poor are woven together in an engrossing, carefully researched narrative.
Bibliography, source notes, index.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Lively text complemented by excellent, well-placed reproductions of photographs, drawings, flyers, woodcuts, posters and ads . . . . Who knew the biography of a germ could be so fascinating?" —Kirkus Review, starred review "This is a solid and timely addition to nonfiction resources on sickness and human history."—VOYA, 4Q 3P J S "An engaging read."—Horn Book "The writing is crisp and clinical . . . Students researching diseases or medical breakthroughs will find this book both informative and interesting."—School Library Journal, starred review "Wide ranging in breadth, yet always well focused on the topic at hand, this fascinating book offers a sharply detailed picture of tuberculosis throughout history."—Booklist, starred review
VOYA - Erin Howerton
Tuberculosis has been with humans seemingly since the beginning of time, and only in the most recent century have advances been made in its treatment and towards a more advanced understanding of the "captain of all these men of death." Murphy and Black help young readers understand this silent killer that, until recently, has been lying quietly in wait to surge forward again. The story begins with an archaeological investigation revealing the earliest evidence of the disease, and follows its path through human experience. This includes the idea that a "royal touch" was able to halt its growth (reminding readers that, likely, victims enjoyed an improved diet and status in their community as a result of being in contact with royalty). Stories of young tubercular patients being sent to early twentieth-century sanatoriums will help younger readers identify with their plight, as sufferers were denied laughter and physical activity while being parked on fresh air porches at all times, even in winter. Plenty of period illustrations and photographs are provided, which give the reader more context. The authors' treatment of the effects of socioeconomic status upon sick patients' odds of survival rounds out the story more completely. The narrative continues to the present day, where they recognize that a complete cure for this and other deadly scourges may never be achieved, but science and medical advances may help treat disease ever more effectively. This is a solid and timely addition to nonfiction resources on sickness and human history, especially due to recent headlines about drug-resistant strains reemerging in southeast Asia. Reviewer: Erin Howerton
Children's Literature - Pat Trattles
What do the Bronte sisters, Edgar Allan Poe, and Robert Louis Stevenson all have in common? Each one of them died from tuberculosis. Tuberculosis, or consumption, as it was originally called, is a debilitating disease that has been infecting people since the dawn of time. The story of TB is as much a story of civilization as it is a story of disease. It starts with archeologists finding evidence of tuberculosis in a 500,000 year old skull and continues through to the present day. Various "cures" such as the medieval "king's touch" in which it was thought a royal touch could cure sickness, bloodletting of the 19th century, twentieth century sanatoriums and modern day drug cocktails are all discussed at length. Period photographs and personal stories of TB sufferers, many of them children, add authenticity to the text, making it more accessible to young readers. Also covered is the socioeconomic side of the disease, with a discussion of how treatment often varied depending on the race and economic status of the patient. A comprehensive bibliography, extensive source notes, and picture credit listing are provided. While the jacket cover says the book is aimed at nine to twelve year old readers, the vocabulary, writing style, and content is more appropriate for age twelve and up. Reviewer: Pat Trattles
Library Journal
The earliest known evidence of the tuberculosis virus can be found in fossils over 500,000 years old, and while the disease no longer ravages the human population (since the advent of antibiotics), it still presents a deadly threat. Murphy is on familiar ground, his Newbery Honor winning An American Plague (2003) having brought to life the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793. Here he describes the impact of “the greatest killer of humans in the history of the world”—the literary figures who fell victim to it (John Keats, the Brontë sisters), the sometimes barbaric methods used to fight it, and its resurgence as a superbug. Chilling statistics (such as “a recent study estimated that nearly 90 percent of [people released from Russian prisons] have dormant tuberculosis”) demonstrate that that this killer is far from tamed. An engrossing volume of topical medical history.

(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
Murphy and Blank chronicle the story of the tuberculosis microorganism, the greatest serial killer of all time. Tuberculosis has been infecting people for millions of years and has killed over a trillion humans. This fascinating tale unfolds as a biography of a germ, an account of the treatment and search for cures, and a social history of the disease. As Murphy treated yellow fever in An American Plague (2003), this volume offers a lively text complemented by excellent, well-placed reproductions of photographs, drawings, flyers, woodcuts, posters and ads. The images include an Edvard Munch painting depicting the death of his 16-year-old sister of tuberculosis, a flyer for a Paul Laurence Dunbar poetry reading with a discussion of how minorities were denied proper medical care, a drawing showing death coming for Irish-born author Laurence Sterne and a photograph of Anne, Emily and Charlotte Brontë, all of whom died of tuberculosis. The broad focus of the slim volume allows it to be about many things: medical discovery, technology, art and how people from all walks of life have dealt with a deadly disease that pays no attention to social distinctions. The bibliography is thorough, and even the source notes are illuminating. Who knew the biography of a germ could be so fascinating? (acknowledgments, picture credits, index [not seen]) (Nonfiction. 9-14)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—Starting with the dramatic cover photo of a row of girls lying in their hospital beds, Murphy and Blank unwind the tangled history of tuberculosis, a disease that continues to kill millions every year. The writing is crisp and clinical. Readers will be surprised to learn that kings believed that a single touch of their hand would cure the peasants and that one of the more radical treatments for TB included removing multiple ribs from a patient's chest. At times gruesome and somewhat somnolent when describing the peaceful sanatoriums, the book clearly details all the many unsuccessful attempts to cure this infectious disease. The authors also describe how close modern medicine has come to eradicating it. Students researching diseases or medical breakthroughs will find this book both informative and interesting. Helpful, too, are the pronunciation tips that are included when the authors discuss the complicated names of the bacteria and illnesses. The book is liberally illustrated with photos, drawings, and prints that vividly complement the text. The selected bibliography and source notes serve also as excellent examples of useful citations.—Denise Schmidt, San Francisco Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618535743
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 7/10/2012
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 328,870
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1200L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Murphy is the author of An American Plague , which received the Sibert Medal and a Newbery Honor and was selected as a National Book Award finalist. His Clarion titles include The Boys' War and other award-winning nonfiction as well as a picture book, Fergus and the Night-Demon . He lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, with his family. For more information visit www.jimmurphybooks.com.

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Table of Contents

This Is the Story 1

1 In the Beginning 3

2 The King's Evil 14

3 "There Is a Dread Disease" 23

4 Into the Mountains 31

5 "To Comfort Always" 40

6 The Cause 51

7 The Outsiders 65

8 The Cure 82

9 "Like a Fairy-Tale" 97

10 Supergerms 104

11 Hot Spots 112

Acknowledgments 123

Bibliography 125

Source Notes 129

Picture Credits 143

Index 145

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