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The Secret Life of Germs by Philip M. Tierno Jr, Ph.D.

The Secret Life of Germs

Philip M. Tierno Jr, Ph.D.

The Secret Life Of Germs provides an inside view of the fascinating and elegantly ordered microscopic world of germs that cause diseases such as: the common cold, E. coli, and Lyme disease, encephalitis, mad cow disease, anthrax, and others.

It takes readers on a historical survey of the culprits of disease and explores the effect they have had on our world. It offers numerous protective response strategies, health and hygiene tips for inside and outside the office, advice on food safety, and pointers on safer human contact to stop the transmitting of disease.




Germs for Life


In the century and a half since Louis Pasteur proved that germs cause disease, humanity has been embarked on a great quest to learn the secrets of the germ world. Every generation has pursued that quest in the urgent hope and conviction that its discoveries could signal a final victory over germs and disease. But we must stop vying for a triumph over germs, rather than through and with them. If there is one thing above all to learn from our recent experiences and discoveries - from the tragic flowering of the AIDS epidemic, to the puzzles of antibiotic resistance, to the recognition that germs play a role in many cases of heart disease and cancer and may also be involved in such diseases as Alzheimer's and ALS - it is humility in the face of germs' unrivaled adaptability and genetic resourcefulness. To further medicine's long struggle with disease, we will need a vastly expanded knowledge of how germs function in disparate environments, especially the complex environment of the human body, and we must become better and better at recruiting useful germs to our aid. Beyond that, we must always be prepared for more germ surprises.

We cannot triumph over germs, because the health of the planet Earth and every living creature on it depends on them.


...with Protective Response Strategies grounded in common sense and good science, we can do much to maintain our health in the meantime. An overarching Protective Response Strategy against infectious germs would incorporate the following concepts and behaviors.


First, we must understand the important role that germs play as recyclers of complex organic matter on planet Earth, and in the maintenance of our own health. Germs in the normal human flora can prevent establishment of pathogenic germs in our bodies and also provide us with nutritive materials. Therefore, we must never entertain the notion that all germs are bad and should be eliminated. That is neither possible nor desirable. Because germs are ubiquitous (including in and on human beings), we must learn to live with them. Hence our protective strategy should be focused on reducing the risks of infection.


We must also maintain an awareness of the dynamics involved in the transmission of germs. Such knowledge can lead to better methods of control or even prevention of infectious processes. We should recall that the causative agents of disease are usually transmitted from a so-called reservoir of infection to a susceptible host by four main routes: direct or indirect contact (such as hand to hand, or hand to doorknob), common vehicles (such as food- or water-borne germs), airborne (such as inhaling tiny particles in air) and vectors (such as flies, ticks, or mosquitoes). Knowing this may better enable us to defeat or prevent infection and help us establish effective defensive strategies.


About the Author


Philip M. Tierno, Jr, PhD, is Director, Clinical Microbiology & Immunology, New York University Medical Center, and Associate Professor, Departments of Microbiology & Pathology, New York University School of Medicine.


Dr. Tierno served on Mayor Guiliani's Bioterrorism Task Force, is Co-founder and President of the non-profit organization "Foundation for Scientific Research in the Public Interest," and became internationally known for his work in resolving the mystery of Toxic Shock Syndrome.


His expertise in environmental and medical microbiology has resulted in many appearances on national TV, documentaries, and investigative reports, including The Today Show, Oprah, 20/20, Montel, ABC News Primetime, etc.



The Secret Life of Germs:  Created on November 26th, 2007.  Last Modified on November 26th, 2007


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