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Deadly Companions: How microbes shaped our history
 
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Deadly Companions: How microbes shaped our history [Format Kindle]

Dorothy H. Crawford

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Revue de presse

Admirably clear and engaging. (BBC History)

Présentation de l'éditeur

Ever since we started huddling together in communities, the story of human history has been inextricably entwined with the story of microbes. They have evolved and spread amongst us, shaping our culture through infection, disease, and pandemic. At the same time, our changing human culture has itself influenced the evolutionary path of microbes. Dorothy H. Crawford here shows that one cannot be truly understood without the other.Beginning with a dramatic account of the SARS pandemic at the start of the 21st century, she takes us back in time to follow the interlinked history of microbes and man, taking an up-to-date look at ancient plagues and epidemics, and identifying key changes in the way humans have lived - such as our move from hunter-gatherer to farmer to city-dweller - which made us vulnerable to microbe attack.Showing how we live our lives today - with increasing crowding and air travel - puts us once again at risk, Crawford asks whether we might ever conquer microbes completely, or whether we need to take a more microbe-centric view of the world. Among the possible answers, one thing becomes clear: that for generations to come, our deadly companions will continue to shape human history.

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Amazon.com: 4.6 étoiles sur 5  14 commentaires
29 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Our Unwinnable War 23 janvier 2008
Par R. Hardy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Bacteria have a bad reputation. We think of them as causing illness, and that's correct, of course, but overwhelmingly they do not cause us harm. Without them, indeed, we could not digest our food, and elements could not be recycled into the environment. They have been performing this sort of vital service for around 600 million years. There are a million or so microbes we know about, and of them, only 1,415 are known to cause disease in humans, with the rest steadily chugging away to keep the world in balance. Those pathogenic ones are the main subject in _Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped Our History_ (Oxford University Press) by Dorothy H. Crawford. A microbiologist, Crawford has written plenty of scientific papers, but here (as in a previous book about viruses) she writes for a popular audience to show how microbes, especially the ones that bother and kill us, have affected the humans that are interlopers in their world. We must never forget that most microbes are our companions and are not deadly, and that we live in a mutually beneficial partnership with millions of them. But it is their world: "We relative newcomers to the planet," ominously writes Crawford, "emerge from the safe environment of our mother's womb pristine, untouched by the infectious microbes, but within hours our bodies are colonised by swarms of them, all intent on living off this new food source."

Microbes don't mean to hurt us, of course, and despite the upsurge of religious feeling that accompanies any plague, there is no reason to think that they are doing anything but their natural cycles without any supernatural tinkering to deliver lessons to afflicted humans. The great problem with infective microbes is that they can change faster than we can. Resistance to the antibiotics we have had for only a few decades is merely the most recent manifestation of their evolutionary adaptability, and there is no reason to think that any new generation of antibiotics is going to change this pattern. Crawford shows how different microbes afflicted us when we were hunter gatherers than did so when we changed to living in farming communities. Diseases have changed history. The ruler Crawford mentions that seems to have been most affected by them was Napoleon. He wanted to extend his empire into the New World, but mosquito-borne yellow fever decimated the troops within the Caribbean, and prevented his plan to move on to New Orleans and points north. It was not just the cold and starvation that kept Napoleon's troops from taking Russia. Louse-borne typhus took its toll, and without it, many historians think Napoleon could have gone on to conquer Europe.

Crawford takes up bubonic plague, the potato blight fungus, cholera, smallpox and many more, explaining the natural cycle of each microbe, its vectors (mosquitoes, fleas, lice) and its reservoirs in the wild (snails, birds, cattle). It isn't all biology; Crawford points out that _the_ major cause of microbe-related deaths is poverty, with a hugely disproportionate toll on poorer nations. The science she writes about, all with clarity and enthusiasm, is something new, especially compared to how long we have been going about with these microbial companions. Dealing with diseases scientifically has been regarded as impious; she quotes a 1722 sermon railing against smallpox vaccination "... because inoculation opposes the will of God, who sends disease (including smallpox) either to try our faith or to punish us for our sins." Science, however, is not going to keep us out of trouble; we have headlines these days about microbes that are resistant to our miracle drugs, and our own misuse of drugs against tuberculosis has resulted not in "multiply drug resistant" TB, but in "extensively drug resistant" TB, with "completely drug resistant" TB looming in the future. Even if we were to invent the superdrug researchers jokingly call "gorillacillin", it would kill off our helper microbes as well as the villains, and history shows that even such a drug would be overcome by resistance eventually. It isn't hopeless, and Crawford has written a sobering but not a pessimistic book. We have won battles, and that's something to be proud of. But we will have to content ourselves with winning battles, for we will never win the war.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A light look into deadly microbes 7 juin 2009
Par P. Alther - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
First, I would like to issue forth that I am giving this book 5 stars as it was a very good read (if one can tolerate an academic book), delving into both the historical and scientific side of our deadly friends. I do have problems with the book, the main point being that it was too short. Judging by the cover, I thought it would delve more into the plague doctors of the 17th century and into some of the medieval lore surrounding plagues. This was not so, as it took a very broad look at it, spanning over several millennium, only lightly touch the plague doctors, as well as other topics. It should be mentioned that, for the most part, it was a look at how these disease infected and affected Europeans and N. Americans, however she did get into the very depressing downfall of the great civilizations of South America, with some detail.

I cannot hold shortness against the book as it is not meant to delve too deeply into any one topic and is designed to cover a wide range of issues, which it did very well, and giving the reader a tantalizing taste into this strange history. I found it a quick read (but not exactly light), and it did make me sad when I learned just how severe many of these diseases were, that I only knew by name.

All in all, this is a fine book and worthy of anyone reading it that holds an interest in medicine, history, or both (as I do). Enjoy!
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Our Longstanding War Against Microbes 13 décembre 2009
Par Michael Mecredy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
In Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped Our History, Dr. Dorothy Crawford tells the tale of how microbes have impacted human society throughout the ages. She begins with a basic description of the life cycle of bacteria and viruses and then proceeds to discuss the methods of transmission to the early hunter-gatherer societies. From there, she traces the evolution of microbes in conjunction with the growth of human civilization. Dr. Crawford's main purpose in this investigation is to evaluate mankind's future in relation to the microbes that have plagued us for centuries. While history has shown man fighting desperately to survive, modern technology has given us the tools to alter this war. However, even tools such as antibiotics, antiviral drugs, and vaccines have, on occasion, been rendered ineffective as microbes evolve and mutate far faster than we do. With that in mind, Dr. Crawford proposes that we find a solution in which we live in harmony with, rather than at odds to, the multitude of microbes.
Structurally, Dr. Crawford progresses chronologically starting with the infection of hunter-gatherers by malaria and ending with the recent epidemics of SARS and H5N1 Avian Flu. During each era of history, certain microbes were more prevalent and Dr. Crawford highlights these microbes in their historical context.
I would highly recommend Deadly Companions to all readers. While the subject matter may seem to be quite "academic," Dr. Crawford does an excellent job of formatting the material for the general audience while still remaining objective and factual and captivating the mind through the last page.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 "Deadly Companions" review 21 avril 2010
Par Erin C. Howland - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Dorothy H. Crawford's "Dealy Companions" is a facinating read for anyone interested in microbiology or history. The book could easily be used as a supplement for a introductory microbiology course, however the non-student may find Crawford's style somewhat dry and sober, as she tends to downplay some of the most facinating subject matter and dissapointingly barrows many ideas and tables from Jared Diamond's work. Specifically the beginning of chapter 5, which seems almost verbatum from "Guns, Germs and Steel." While the first three chapters are full of imagery by the time you get through chapters four, five and six it feels as though Crawford has abandoned the storytelling. In spite of being somewhat boring in the middle, Crawford's work has several redeeming qualities. Crawford is not afraid to challenge the reader to comptenplate big ideas, such as our intimate and complex relationship with microbes that both help us and hurt us.
Refreshingly Crawford does not attempt to incite the reader in a war against microbes as many authors on the subject do, but presents an elegant argument for accepting our shared past and future. Crawford guides the reader through our co evolution with "deadly companions" from the beginning of time to the present leaving the reader with both a sense of dread and serenity, and certinly a great deal of respect for microbes. The opening chapter "How It All Began" is espcially inspired. Crawford paints a vivid picture of the emergence of microorganisms and somehow manages to pack 4.6 billion years of evolution into an enjoyable and readable narrative. Crawford's book is a fairly easy read and well worth slogging through a few boring parts in the middle for the sense of worder you will be left with after reading this eye-opening work.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 One is known by one's companions 17 novembre 2012
Par toronto - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This is an excellent book for a general coverage of the topic, infused with a lot of specialist knowledge deftly displayed. I've read a number of these books, and they are either too detailed (once you get into the immune system you never get out again), too encyclopaedic, or just plain boring. This covers the topics briskly (some of the history is perhaps covered a bit too briskly) and is the best I have read for an overview. There is, as mentioned, actually a lot of specialist knowledge displayed here, though the average reader might not notice it. The best part of the book is the discussion of the complexity of actually pinning down the etiology of X diseases -- here the expertise comes into its own. It is about as up to date as you could want.
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