Daily Archives: March 20, 2018

** Catching Breath by Kathryn Laughed

Despite the author’s mostly lively prose, and her sense of humor, Catching Breath: The Making and Unmaking of Tuberculosis┬ácan be a bit of a slog to read for non-professional scientists and I certainly flipped some pages rather fast in the most technical chapters. Still, it’s extraordinary to think that tuberculosis, which is the most-prevalent infectious disease in the world, gets so little publicity and is so poorly understood by medicine — probably because (a) it strikes mostly poor countries and (b) it has managed to survive for so long because its mechanism is complicated!

Be prepared to overturn some of what you thought you knew about the disease (for one thing, it’s not all about coughing, that’s only pulmonary TB) and to be horrified at the ways of long-dead scientists (Koch injected his much younger fiancee with his attempt at a vaccine; she married him anyway!) My favorite story in the book is that of rats that have been trained to sniff sputum samples (African pushed rats, don’t try this at home).

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