Member Reviews

I enjoyed this book. The discussion of phages was interesting as was all the biographical information. The tone was conversational and any science was well explained, but I feel that a lot more could have been said about phages without changing the tone of the book. There was a lot of information about Georgia and life under the Soviet Union which I found interesting although not always on-topic. Overall, it was a worthwhile read. Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the advance reader copy.

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An engaging and readable look at alternatives to antibiotics. Phages are readily available, proven in other parts of the world, and just coming to light in the West.

Read this if you are interested in medicine, natural healing, or have an antibiotic-resistant illness. I found it fascinating and highly recommend it. At the very least, you'll have something to talk about with friends - and perhaps you'll even gain an alternative to suggest to someone in medical crisis.

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I received a free copy of, The Living Medicine, by Lina Zeldovich. from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Bacteriophages or "Phages" are viruses that devour bacteria, first developed in 1917, they have been forgotten about and not used as often as antibiotics. I never knew about phages before I read this book. it is a very interesting subject.

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Bury the lead? Bury the lede? Whichever one you choose, that’s what’s happening in this book.

Presumably, the editors chose the title and subtitle for this book. They got it right. They knew the most interesting thing in this book for the average 21st-century reader would be the prospect that phages (viruses that attack bacteria) will be the new generation of remedies available as antibiotics become less and less effective.

However, a lot of this book (especially near the beginning) is taken up with some less interesting score-settling in which the author takes a victory lap along with a group of long-ignored and -belittled phage scientists (mostly from the former Soviet region of Georgia). There's no argument, I think, that scientists who studied phages were, for most of the twentieth century, ignored (at best) or ridiculed (at worst) for their contention that phages could be an effective part of a healer's toolkit. Cold War mentality in the West and murderous paranoia in the Soviet space allowed phages to remain more or less a medical secret tucked away in Soviet Georgia during the long period when antibiotics reigned supreme.

Chapters two through seven, inclusive, take up 32% of the book (so says my Kindle) and are mostly devoted to the history of phage research in Soviet Georgia, with an emphasis on the personal lives of the scientists. This is only of interest, I think, if you are a science historian. I read it, of course, because (although I am not a science historian) I was fortunate enough to get a free copy of this book to review. However, if you are not a science historian, but instead are a person with the average amount of work, family obligations, cooking, cleaning, ironing, exercising, etc., but still likes to read edifying books, you could skim these chapters and start reading more carefully from chapter eight through the book's conclusion if you'd like to know more about how phages work, how they were used in the past, and how they may become more frequently administered to sick people in the future.

Returning to the theme of burying the lead/lede, I think that phages are now ready for their close-up in part due to other, more ballyhooed advancements in medical science, specifically, our new-found ability to see and edit the genetic structure of living things, including phages, so that people can spend longer and healthier lives. Phages will have to be closely monitored and edited frequently.

If I'm understanding correctly, up until recently, the use of phages in the treatment of sick people was a bit of a crap shoot, since phages come in two varieties: lytic and lysogenic. Lytic phages are the heroes – these are the ones that are used in the many, many cases in this book where gravely ill patients who resisted all other manner of more traditional therapy were suddenly, almost miraculously, cured. On the other hand, “[l]ysogenic phages are unreliable and dangerous – if not as much for a specific patient but on a global scale because they can turn relatively mild bugs into brutal killers” (Kindle location 3206). Up until recently, it was impossible to have a high degree of confidence that you are completely separating the helpful phages from the nasty ones – making the 20th-century Western medical establishment's reluctance to deal with them seem less unreasonable.

Phages aren't a miracle cure. The author, while enthusiastic about their potential, makes this clear. A traditional antibiotic could (at least in the 20th century) be introduced and remain effective for decades, giving profit-making companies the incentive to make the enormous investments of time and energy necessary to get them to market. Phages are narrower and more specialized: new ones would have to be developed constantly, and perhaps will not fit well into the time-consuming process currently in place which has (effectively) ensured that supplies of prescription medicines are uniform, uncontaminated, and consistently safe to use.

Since the medical information space on the internet is routinely full of misinformation and hysteria, this book might be an interesting one to read to get the full background on a “new” technology that may play a bigger role in our lives.

I received a free advance electronic copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

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nonfiction, disease-management, historical-figures, historical-places-events, historical-research, history-and-culture, medical-history, medical-progress, feces-borne-diseases, history-of-antibiotic-treatment*****

Excellent textbook relating the history of feces borne diseases and the differing approaches to treatment and eradication. While the US focused on developing more and more antibiotics (and all the problems incipient in that approach), Russia remained focused on a more biologic treatment which enriched no pharmaceutical companies. There is extensive treatment of the history of the results of the kinds of diseases caused by overcrowding as well as wars. Excellent!
I requested and received a free temporary EARC from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. Thank you!

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Thank you, NetGalley and St Martin's Press for this advanced reader's copy. This book was an awesome and informative read as an Infection Prevention RN. I currently see so many multidrug resistant organisms in my patients unfortunately, and so it is inspiring to see there is something other than MORE antibiotics to be able to treat these organisms and help these patients as many of these have no options left. I love that bacteriophages can be used in this way and are a great and unlimited resource.

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The Living Medicine by Lina Zeldovich is a captivating exploration of the world of bacteriophages, what they are, how they have been used, and possible uses for human health in the future. The author, a science journalist with the capacity for explaining scientific ideas so they can be understood by a general audience, takes readers on a journey through the fascinating realm of bacteriophages, shedding light on how they may very well rescue us.

Bacteriophages, often referred to simply as phages, are viruses that specifically infect bacteria. Discovered in the early 20th century, bacteriophages have been recognized as important players in various ecosystems, particularly in the context of human health and disease. Phages typically consist of a protein coat surrounding their genetic material, which can be either DNA or RNA. They come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from simple structures to more complex ones. Phages are abundant in natural environments, including soil, water, and the human body. They play a crucial role in regulating bacterial populations and shaping microbial communities. They are key players in horizontal gene transfer among bacteria, influencing bacterial evolution and diversity.

They have been used to target and kill specific pathogenic bacteria that cause infections, including cholera and dysentery, beginning in 1919. Phages can be selected or engineered to specifically target particular bacterial strains while leaving beneficial bacteria unharmed. This targeted approach is particularly valuable in the era of antibiotic resistance when traditional antibiotics may be ineffective against certain bacterial infections. They have also proved useful in treating chronic infections by methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) which is notoriously resistant to antibiotics and they may serve as possible treatments in the future for chronic conditions.

Much of the bacteriophage research was done at the George Eliava Institute in Soviet Georgia, but it was largely destroyed in 1991 in the Georgian Civil War. Scientists worked to save whatever phage cultures they could and about 50 people still work at the Institute on phage production. There is still much research that needs to be done into specificity, resistance, immunogenicity, safety, and regulatory hurdles, but Zeldovich's book serves to remind us that bacteriophages helped in the past and may have even more uses in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on October 22, 2024.

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I've long been interested in bacteriophages and their beneficial properties, and this book is such a fascinating look into not only their history but how they can really help us. This is especially true when it comes to antibiotic resistance, which is a growing problem that threatens our world as we know it. There is a lot to learn about the history of bacteriophages and exactly how they came to be, and their discovery of use, and this book does a great job of telling their story while also stressing the importance of them for our future. This scientific discovery, while not well known yet to the general public, is something we really need to focus to help combat the problem of antibiotic resistance. I think those interested in science and history and what the implications are for our future will enjoy this book and it is a must read!

Thank you to NetGalley, Lina Zeldovich, and St. Martin's Press for the eARC of this book.

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The Living Medicine was a very interesting book detailing the research on using bacteriophages to treat bacterial infections instead of antibiotics. I was somewhat knowledgeable of the use of bacteriophages for this use and also for gene therapy, but I did not know the back story of the research that was done in the past in the former soviet union. This is what I love to learn- about the people and processes behind the discoveries. It gives me a greater appreciation for the applications of scientific discoveries.

As a high school biology and anatomy teacher I discuss antibiotic resistance, specifically MRSA and other highly resistance strains, with both of my classes and this book as given me real life examples to share with my students. I would recommend for my school library to obtain a copy and recommend this book to my students.

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Really really insightful, in the era of antibiotic therapy, we never heard or hope about miraculous things to happen. Hope this book will be a blessing for many others.

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