Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them

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Antibiotic-resistant microbes infect more than 2 million Americans and kill over 100,000 each year. They spread rapidly, even in such seemingly harmless places as high school locker rooms, where they infect young athletes. Throughout the world, many more people are dying from these infections. Astoundingly, as antibiotic resistant infections are skyrocketing in incidence—creating a critical need for new antibiotics—research and development of new antibiotics has ground to a screeching halt!
In Rising Plague, Dr. Brad Spellberg—an infectious diseases specialist and member of a national task force charged with attacking antibiotic resistant infections—tells the story of this potentially grave public health crisis. The author shares true and very moving patient stories to emphasize the terrible frustration he and his colleagues have experienced while attempting to treat untreatable infections, not to mention the heart-break and tragedy that many of these patients’ families had to endure. Dr. Spellberg corrects the nearly universal misperception that physician misuse of antibiotics and "dirty hospitals" are responsible for causing antibiotic-resistant infections. He explains the true causes of antibiotic resistance and of the virtual collapse of antibiotic research and development. Most important, he advocates ways to reverse this dire trend and instead bolster the production of desperately needed new and effective antibiotics. He also warns against complacency induced by the decades-old assumption that some miracle drug will always be available to ensure the continuation of our "antibiotic era." If we do nothing, we run the risk of inviting a bleak future when infectious diseases will once again reign supreme. Then many of the medical breakthroughs that we now take for granted—from routine surgery and organ transplants to intensive care and battlefield medicine—might all be threatened.
This crucial and timely book is lucidly written in terms that everyone can understand. It issues a call to action, explaining how, through a strong and concerted effort, we can all help prevent this nightmare scenario from happening. By following this courageous doctor’s recommendations, we can assure that magic bullets will be there for our families and us in the future.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
As seen on The Doctors, PBS Frontline, and Katie!

"Clear and concise, with a good mix of dramatic (and, at times, tragic) examples and hard statistics.... The book ends with an admonition to take the threat of drug-resistant bacteria seriously; when you’ve finished reading, you’ll find it impossible to disagree.” 
-San Francisco Book Review 

“This readable, well-written volume will resonate with a diverse audience, It provides an excellent review of the problems associated with antibiotic resistance, explains the causes, and recommends solutions to encourage discovery and development of new antibiotics. Highly recommended.”

"Avoiding medical jargon, this fast-paced call to action should be read by anyone concerned about our medical future. Highly recommended.”
-Library Journal 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591027508
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 9/22/2009
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 682,543
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Brad Spellberg, MD (Los Angeles, CA) is associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is based in the Divisions of General Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He was featured on an Emmy award-winning episode of NOVA called "Rise of the Superbugs." He is the author (with Carlos Ayala, MD) of the popular Boards and Wards series of medical review books.

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Table of Contents

Introduction To die from an untreatable infection - no one is safe 11

Ch. 1 Hard lessons learned from Mrs. C. 19

Ch. 2 Infections, antibiotics, and antibiotic resistance 33

Ch. 3 Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus : deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria escape the hospital 49

Ch. 4 Beyond MRSA : infections resistant to virtually all antibiotics 69

Ch. 5 Lack of antibiotic development 83

Ch. 6 The war against microbes? 97

Ch. 7 Forget pharmaceutical companies, the government can create new antibiotics - not! 137

Ch. 8 "Toxic pharmaceutical politics" and finger pointing 157

Ch. 9 So what will work? 181

Ch. 10 What can you do to help? 195

Ch. 11 Consequences and conclusions 209

Endnotes 217

Index 257

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2009

    Brad Spellings fascinating book Rising Plague is about humanities growing war against bacteria and how the fight is going today. Written with accounts from out front line hospitals and leading experts the book is concise and informative. Read it!

    Don't think Brad Spellbergs long list of accomplishments will make this is a dry or difficult read. By using first hand knowledge and experiencet he informs the reader about humanitires ongoing war with bacteria. The ever-changing chess board of bacteria continues to thrive while the antibiotic cupboard is bare and no new wonder drug is coming down the pike. Whether you are a student, doctor, polititian, or a housewife, you will come away from the book with lots to think about.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2013


    I enjoyed the book. The information pertaining too what is behind the scene and the process that could and likely needs too be taken to get new antibiotics in the pipeline was interesting. There is no doubt in my mind there is a potential problem on the horizon, if this is not addressed sooner, rather than later. We are already seeing the results in the lack of research and development of new and powerful antibiotics, as well as, some of these infections we have all read about in the media e.g. MRSA. I would have given the book review 4 and perhaps 5 stars, if the author had provided additional examples of these resistant microbes.

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  • Posted May 23, 2011


    Informative and very simple to comprehend

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Too Much Opinion, Not Enough Information

    The book begins with compelling stories about actual patients with which the author had personal contact. The author's first-hand delivery allows the reader an unexpected intimacy with the victims and leads toward a sense of urgency about the subject.
    The author provides accurate and informative details about the development, and later overuse, of antibiotics in medicine. He makes a good case for his point, that our society has inadvertently created an environment for superbugs that we won't be able to treat.
    After that, however, the writing digresses into the author's personal philosophies and opinions, and what could have been a compelling call to action dissolves into prose that makes the reader forget what the point was to begin with.
    Interesting for lay people, but I would not recommend the book to serious scholars or researchers.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    An important book -- highly readable, highly relevant

    This is an important book -- for pharmaceutical company leaders, government officials, biotech entrepreneurs, and above all the public, because ultimately we are all patients. In Rising Plague Dr. Spellberg exposes the growing threat of antibiotic resistant microbes, explains the urgency to respond along with the complexity of mounting a response. He maps out a course, identifies the challenges and pitfalls, and as a physician/research scientist, writes a prescription for action. He also sounds a warning for what could happen if this threat is ignored.

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