cover image Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs

Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs

Michael T. Osterholm and Mark Olshaker. Little, Brown, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-34369-5

Infectious disease remains humankind’s deadliest enemy and the future looks bleak, according to epidemiologist Osterholm and documentarian Olshaker. They lead with a dismal introduction on the threat of epidemics before delivering an absorbing account of how epidemiologists work and a disturbing description of what humans are doing to keep them in business. In the book’s early chapters, the authors relate how epidemiologists have dealt with previous epidemics (AIDS, Ebola, SARS) and achieved a few triumphs (against smallpox and toxic shock), but they largely look ahead. Expanding populations are wiping out jungles and eating its wildlife, encountering new microorganisms and animal-borne diseases in addition to the old ones. Global warming is a bonanza for mosquito-borne infections such as malaria, dengue, and yellow fever. Influenza—from birds and domestic animals—produced the 20th century’s worst epidemic, and humans are more vulnerable to it today. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are poised to spur a looming disaster, with superbugs heralding a “postantibiotic” era within decades. This is a convincing call to arms, among the best of a stream of similar warnings published recently. Urging political leaders to pay greater attention, the authors agree with prior warnings that matters will get worse without vastly more planning, research, and money. Agent: Frank Weimann, Folio Literary. (Mar.)