Award-winning Boston University educator and researcher Muhammad H. Zaman provides a chilling look at the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, explaining how we got here and what we must do to address this growing global health crisis.
In September 2016, a woman in Nevada became the first known case in the U.S. of a person who died of an infection resistant to every antibiotic available. Her death is the worst nightmare of infectious disease doctors and public health professionals. While bacteria live within us and are essential for our health, some strains can kill us. As bacteria continue to mutate, becoming increasingly resistant to known antibiotics, we are likely to face a public health crisis of unimaginable proportions. “It will be like the great plague of the middle ages, the influenza pandemic of 1918, the AIDS crisis of the 1990s, and the Ebola epidemic of 2014 all combined into a single threat,” Muhammad H. Zaman warns.
The Biography of Resistance is Zaman’s riveting and timely look at why and how microbes are becoming superbugs. It is a story of science and evolution that looks to history, culture, attitudes and our own individual choices and collective human behavior. Following the trail of resistant bacteria from previously uncontacted tribes in the Amazon to the isolated islands in the Arctic, from the urban slums of Karachi to the wilderness of the Australian outback, Zaman examines the myriad factors contributing to this unfolding health crisis—including war, greed, natural disasters, and germophobia—to the culprits driving it: pharmaceutical companies, farmers, industrialists, doctors, governments, and ordinary people, all whose choices are pushing us closer to catastrophe.
Joining the ranks of acclaimed works like Microbe Hunters, The Emperor of All Maladies, and Spillover, A Biography of Resistance is a riveting and chilling tale from a natural storyteller on the front lines, and a clarion call to address the biggest public health threat of our time.
About the Author
Muhammad H. Zaman, PhD, is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor of Biomedical Engineering and International Health at Boston University. His work has been published in Nature, Science, and Lancet
Planetary Health, among other magazines. In addition, his opinion pieces and columns have appeared in leading newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post, U.S. News & World Report, El País, and Japan Times; on Al Jazeera; at the World Economic Forum; and through dozens of other outlets. He lives with his family in the greater Boston area.
A useful, engaging opus
— New York Times Book Review
Antibiotic resistance is a global problem—a disease present in Karachi one day may arrive in Reno, Nev., the next—yet the same connectivity that has spread resistance has eased collaboration across borders. Mr. Zaman’s optimism...is welcome, though not always easy to share. Still, his sense of urgency is irresistible.
— Wall Street Journal
"A vivid portrayal of our fight against an opponent that has been around for more than 3 billion years. Zaman, a professor of biomedical engineering and international health, portrays a conflict—between humans and harmful strains of bacteria—that has played out in plagues and epidemics over millennia."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“I was born under the antibiotic umbrella and took effective antibiotics for granted. Yet we still battle pneumonia, which still kills 800,000 children per year, due to a lack of access. Meanwhile, there is excess use of antibiotics, in humans and animals, causing the problem of drug-resistant infections. This book tells you the story of the people who set up the antibiotic umbrella and the challenge to keep it up—for all of us, together, as one humanity. Because no wall will ever protect us against drug-resistant infections.”
— Stefan Swartling Peterson, chief of health, UNICEF
“If you read one book this year, please make it this one. A breathtaking, inspiring, and very personal account of one of the greatest challenges of our time—drug-resistant infections—an issue that will undermine the whole of modern medicine unless we act, and we act now. This book is about what has made modern medicine possible—the ability to control and treat infections. This book fills one with hope that science can overcome the challenge, politicians can act, policies can work, and drug-resistant infections do not need to be the end of modern medicine. It is enthralling, engaging, and beautifully written.”
— Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Trust
“Biography of Resistance is a sweeping and engaging history of the tango humanity dances with bacteria—which both make human life possible and have the capacity to end it. Our efforts in the past hundred years to gain the upper hand have led to remarkable successes—but now may be backfiring as antimicrobial resistance looms as the biggest public health challenge of our time. Dr. Zaman’s story is timely and urgent.”
— Kathleen Sebelius, former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services