Superbug. We are in an arms race, and the bacteria are winning.

I almost never get sick, and I’m pretty careful about the food I eat (with today being the exception as its “free pastry day” at Starbucks). I prefer to make things myself – if I want a cookie I get out my trusty wooden spoon and start at it, if I feel under the weather, I drink a gallon of water and quadruple the garlic in everything I make. It seems pretty obvious then that I would gravitate to a book called Superbug.

Superbug chronicles the life and history of MRSA – methicillin-resistant Staphyloccocus aureus – a supremely sneaky pathogen, that’s simply put, smarter than us.  MRSA is a strain of staph (one of the most common bacteria on the planet) that has grown resistant to almost all the antibiotics used to treat infections. MRSA used to be thought of as a problem that was confined to hospitals, infecting only the terminally ill and immunocompromised, but over the last few years, we have seen a rise in community reported cases, and more surprisingly, agriculture related cases. In 2006, over 2,300 patients in Canadian hospitals died from complications related to MRSA infections; there were 5,787 newly identified MRSA cases; 3,561 healthcare-associated cases; and 893 community-acquired cases.

Written by award winning science and medical writer Maryn Mckenna, Superbug looks at the cause of MRSA resistance, the overuse of antibiotics in commercial agriculture, and what that means for our future health. Drawing on more than 200 interviews and more than 1,100 scientific articles to tell MRSA’s full and never-told story, Superbug is the story of how we created the conditions that allowed MRSA to emerge in the first place.

It seems timely then for me to talk about this book, as yet again there are reports of listeria contaminations in the commercial food products many of us eat without thinking. One of the most interesting parts of this book is McKenna’s discussion of commercial farming, and the link between antibiotic resistance and the cramming of livestock into industrial farms where drugs are essential to keeping meat prices cheap. It seems like we’re fighting a losing battle, either we get sick from listeria, or we get sick from MRSA.

So, before you go to the doctor for that flu you think you might have, take a step back and ask yourself if you really need antibiotics. Better yet, pick up a copy of Superbug, it’s a lot more interesting than reading the New England Journal of Medical whatever, and it’s probably not covered in the same viruses as those tabloid magazines at your doctor’s office.

Read more about Superbug on our website.

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