Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options Skip directly to A-Z link Skip directly to A-Z link Skip directly to A-Z link
Volume 11, Number 10—October 2005
Books and Media

Revenge of the Microbes: How Bacterial Resistance is Undermining the Antibiotic Miracle

Cite This Article

Abigail A. Salyers; Dixie D. Whitt
American Society for Microbiology Press, Washington, DC
ISBN 1-55581-298-8
Pages: 186, Price: US $29.95

Professional journals these days brim with new developments in the field of antimicrobial resistance, and scarcely a week goes by without a flurry of new reports on "super bugs" in popular media. Given the unrelenting blitz of information, that 2 self-proclaimed "fusty old pedants" could produce a fresh perspective in the ongoing arms race between man and microbe is all the more noteworthy.

Although their traditional milieu is microbiology textbooks, Salyers and Whitt have provided a concise yet readable history of the rise of resistant organisms, as well as the social and economic effect of "these indomitable little critters." The history, from the first hints of penicillin resistance to the recent rise of vancomycin resistance, is as insightful as it is entertaining.

Lay readers will get a digestible dose of the basic science often missing from the mass media. And professionals will find the kind of incisive analysis—and even a touch of humor—that is often missing from scientific journals. Both audiences will find eminently compact descriptions of the major mechanisms that enable bacteria to develop and pass on resistant traits, the hurdles that pharmaceutical companies face in developing new antimicrobial drugs, the dilemmas doctors and patients face in finding better ways to use drugs, and a thoughtful appraisal of possible future trends.

In contrast to prophecies of an approaching "post-antibiotic era," the authors' own "realistic vision of the future" is far from apocalyptic. Still, they worry that increasing numbers of treatment failures like those occurring in hospitals and community settings will erode confidence in the healthcare system. Some diseases, they believe, will remain treatable, some new drugs will emerge, and bacteria, with 3 billion years of evolution on their side, will continue to adapt. So perhaps, they suggest, "the best we can hope for is détente, a running standoff between science and the bugs' remarkable ability to adapt to their changing environment."


Mike Toner*Comments to Author 
Author affiliation: *Atlanta Journal and Constitution


Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid1110.050738

Related Links


Table of Contents – Volume 11, Number 10—October 2005

EID Search Options
presentation_01 Advanced Article Search – Search articles by author and/or keyword.
presentation_01 Articles by Country Search – Search articles by the topic country.
presentation_01 Article Type Search – Search articles by article type and issue.



Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

Address for Correspondence: Mike Toner, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 72 Marietta St, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA; fax: 404-526-5746

Send To

10000 character(s) remaining.


Page created: February 22, 2012
Page updated: February 22, 2012
Page reviewed: February 22, 2012
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.