Germs are the seeds of life as well as disease, explains Tierno, the New York University Medical Center doctor who helped solve the mystery of toxic shock syndrome. The NYU Medical Center director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology shares the story of bacteria, viruses, and prions and their myriad effects on human beings.
Show Summary: LIFE IN PIECES is a single-camera comedy about one big happy family and their sometimes awkward, often hilarious and ultimately beautiful milestone moments as told by its various members. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Silent and invisible to the naked eye, they're on everything we touch, eat, breathe -- on every single inch of our skin.
From toxic shock syndrome to Lyme disease to diarrheal infections of the Third World, Tierno offers a broad overview of the impact of these microbes on the world today. Is it a picture of a handsome, vital man, heir to a great fortune, whose exploits as an aviator, a movie producer, a husband of starlets, a wily businessman, and a Nixon campaign contributor have filled scores of articles, books, and movies about him? In tonight’s episode, Tim and Heather unintentionally make things incredibly awkward for Tyler when he brings his gorgeous new girlfriend, Clementine (Hunter King), to meet the family. And despite the remarkable advances of science, germs are challenging medicine in ways that were unimaginable just a decade ago. The book opens with a quick history of germ evolution and of human understanding of germs, from biblical injunctions on cleanliness to the modern science of microbiology. A particularly relevant chapter on germ warfare and terrorism discusses anthrax and other possible bioweapons. Or does another image predominate, the lonely figure of an aging, unkempt, drug-addicted recluse, ensconced at vast expense in a Las Vegas hotel suite that he obsessively tries to keep operating-room clean, fretting endlessly that some germ will infect his system and kill him?The picture of the germ-phobic old man that Howard Hughes became lingers in the public imagination because, when it comes to germs, we all have a little bit of Howard Hughes in us. Also, Matt and Colleen are caught canoodling at the office by their obnoxious co-worker, Will (Ken Marino), Jen and Greg vow not to become germaphobes, and John buys Sophia a cell phone behind her parents’ backs. Due to an explosion of infections never before reported in modern history and a new germ horror story surfacing every week, it's no small wonder that we're frightened -- and that antibacterial soaps are a billion-dollar business. It outlines the various ways illness-causing bacteria are transmitted and gives precise instructions for minimizing infection with a bulleted list of "protective response strategies" at the end of each chapter. Recent books such as Pete Moore's Killer Germs: Rogue Diseases of the Twenty-First Century (Carlton, 2001) have also covered this topic, but Tierno's book includes general information on disease transmission, hand washing, and less glamorous diseases that affect more people than the newsmakers like mad cow disease.
We're all infected with the psychic fear that at any moment, in any setting, invisible agents may as easily give us an incurable, lethal disease as they would a common cold.
Now, renowned microbiologist Philip Tierno cuts through the media hype with the compulsively readable Secret Life Of Germs, revealing exactly where the greatest threats may be hiding.The Secret Life Of Germs provides an inside view of this fascinating and elegantly ordered microscopic world -- from the common cold, E. An interesting book for popular science readers as well as for students doing reports on disease; recommended for public libraries and consumer health collections.
Or perhaps they will poison our food, or attack our children as they play with their friends and pets. He rejects the recent notion that overcleaning is responsible for deficient immune systems and increased childhood asthma (arguing that even the most vigilant housekeeping wouldn't protect kids from all germs), and his warnings against unpasteurized products will be questioned by some. We know that nasty germs could be anywhere, and so we feel helpless to predict when they'll strike or to prevent the harm they can do to us, those we love, and our communities.There is just cause for alarm. It takes readers on a historical survey of the culprits of disease and explores the effect that they -- and the scientists who study them -- have had on our world.Rising above the common scare-tactic techniques used by many authors, Dr.
Except for the very earliest stages of human history, infectious diseases have been, and remain, the number-one killer worldwide.
This germ primer brings the bug into focus while setting even the most jittery hypochondriac's mind at ease.
Thanks to advanced medical care and public sanitation, infectious diseases run a close third to heart disease, the number-one killer, and cancers, the number-two killer, in the United States and other developed countries. Recognizing that humans are more often than not the main spreaders of disease, he offers numerous protective response strategies -- health and hygiene tips for inside and outside the home, advice on food safety, and pointers on human contact -- to stop the transmittal. Filled with practical and enlightening information, The Secret Life Of Germs is an engaging book that will keep readers mesmerized while helping them stay healthy.


As we'll see, the latest scientific evidence implicates infectious germs as a trigger for many cases of heart disease and many kinds of cancer.Once upon a time, not too long ago, we thought we had defeated germs. In the middle of the twentieth century, the development of "wonder drugs" promised to end the scourge of infectious disease forever. Beginning with penicillin, scientists and medical researchers soon stocked our pharmacies with a wide range of antibiotics and vaccines.
It seemed to be the culmination of one of the great themes in the saga of human history, the long struggle to understand the underlying causes of disease. As we'll see, over the millennia people in many different cultures achieved profound insights into the nature and progress of disease -- the ancient Chinese, for example, invented a dangerous but effective method of inoculating against smallpox -- but the means to put all the pieces of the puzzle together were lacking. Superstition, greed, egotism, and inadequate technology all played roles in keeping us ignorant. Not until the Renaissance period in Western Europe did a critical mass of knowledge become available to scientists and physicians working in a new atmosphere of free inquiry.These circumstances enabled an Italian physician named Girolamo Fracastoro to theorize that diseases were transmitted by tiny agents, too small to be seen by the naked eye, which he called "seminaria," that is, "seeds" of disease. Fracastoro published his book on contagious diseases, the first statement of the modern germ theory of disease, in 1546. Just over a hundred years later Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in Holland and Robert Hooke in England used the new optical technology of the microscope to demonstrate that "seminaria" actually existed. But Fracastoro's theory would not be proved in full until the late nineteenth century, when the Frenchman Louis Pasteur, the German Robert Koch, and others finally established reliable procedures for identifying specific disease-causing germs, mapping their transmission from host to host, and developing vaccines to combat them.The great achievements of Pasteur and Koch set the stage for the twentieth century's discovery of penicillin and all the wonder drugs that have followed to this day, including the latest "cocktails" being administered to patients with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Unfortunately, as the AIDS epidemic has made all too clear, we can no longer confidently expect an easy triumph over infectious disease. Even as our wonder drugs and vaccines have allowed us to eliminate scourges such as smallpox, probably the greatest single killer in the history of the human species, we face a frightening array of newly emergent diseases and of old diseases in new guises. Killer germs that once fell easy prey to a few doses of antibiotics, such as those that cause tuberculosis, have reappeared in drug-resistant forms. Meanwhile, globalization has unleashed germs that were once confined among isolated population groups -- HIV, Ebola virus, West Nile virus, among others -- and made it possible for them to spread from anywhere to anywhere, just like a computer virus on the Internet, only much more deadly. In the context of global commerce, travel, tourism, and mass migration, there is no longer any such thing as an isolated population group. When it comes to public health, if nowhere else, we must acknowledge that the world's population is truly all one family. In addition, medical research is continually uncovering new disease roles for germs, from toxic shock syndrome to cancer and heart disease. This is not even to mention the continuing threat of germ warfare or bioterrorism with lethal agents such as anthrax. Less than a thermosful of anthrax germs could kill every warm-blooded creature in, say, Chicago -- people, cats, dogs, horses, and the rest -- leaving the Miracle Mile a desolate province of insects, reptiles, and birds.
Fortunately for us, that is no easy task, but, as we'll explore, it is also not necessarily beyond the reach of a committed terrorist group.Although we must ultimately look to medical science to save us from all these dangers, the medical profession itself has a dirty germ secret that can no longer be ignored. Every year our very best hospitals sicken and even kill an untold number of patients with what are called nosocomial infections. That medical euphemism, "nosocomial," means that it was doctors, nurses, and other staff who made the patients sick, because these caregivers' hands were contaminated with germs. The caregivers' failure to wash their hands properly, or wash them at all, after examining another patient, handling a specimen, using medical equipment, or attending to their own personal hygiene.How is it possible that doctors at elite teaching hospitals don't wash their hands enough? Next time you're in a hospital, you might look for some of the signs that remind medical personnel about hand washing.
These signs often feature a picture of two clasped hands and the words "Wash me."The real importance of the fact that doctors don't always wash their hands as they should is that it indicates the extent to which inadequate personal hygiene cuts across all socioeconomic lines. When researchers put cameras in public rest rooms to track people's behavior, the numbers of those who don't wash their hands properly, or don't wash them at all, is staggering, often over ninety percent.
The rates are such that we really need a vast public-education campaign on hand washing, equivalent to that we now have on smoking. If we look at the matter honestly, we'll see that the cost to public health from not washing our hands is enormous.


One part of the answer may well be the complacency about infections that the ready availability of antibiotics has encouraged until recently. But it is hard not to think that the behavior is mainly fueled by ignorance or selfishness. From the point of view of public health, there is a clear link between not covering one's mouth when one coughs and not fully disclosing one's sexual history to a prospective partner. They are related behaviors, and the threat posed by them gets ever greater, as our world becomes ever more populous and more closely connected.Our Best HopeWhat can we do to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities? Germs are vital to numerous agricultural, commercial, and medical processes, from the yeasts that make bread rise, through the microscopic algae used in manufacturing cosmetics, paints, and fertilizers, to the soil bacteria from which antibiotics are extracted. Without germs, animals, including human beings, could not develop mature immune systems or even digest their food (as germs break down food in the intestine, they extract and produce essential nutrients and vitamins). Often when we get sick, the problem is that we have disturbed this natural balance and turned our own good and necessary germs against us.
We can see that there is a similar balance in the world as a whole, if we consider the role that germs play at the end of life. If there were no germs to decompose them, the dead carcasses of animals and plants would soon cover the earth, choking off all future growth.
Recently we have learned to utilize this capacity of germs to break down organic matter to help clean up oil spills and other pollution.At an even deeper level, we have discovered that germs were the initial building blocks of evolution. A fossilized germ cell found in a rock in western Australia and dated to 3.5 billion years ago is the oldest known sign of life on earth. With all that time in which to multiply, mutate, and adapt to diverse conditions, it should not surprise us to learn that thousands upon thousands of species of germs have colonized every corner of the Earth, from the ocean floor and the frozen wastelands of Antarctica to boiling mineral hot springs and the lava cones of volcanoes. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the ground we walk on, the surfaces we touch, all of it is a teemingly populous, roiling sea of germs.
In fact, some germs and some exposure to germs throughout life are vital to human health and immunity. There are more germs in our intestines than there are stars in the sky, some thousand billion germs per gram of matter. The number of germ cells in a human body actually exceeds the number of body cells by a factor of ten. And the combined weight of microscopic germs exceeds the combined weight of all living animals and plants. Germs can survive, even thrive, at radiation counts a thousand times higher than the level that would kill a human being; they have been recovered, alive, from the petrified gut of a forty-million-year-old bee and from a 250-million-year-old piece of frozen brine. Germs fill an important niche even when they die, as fossilized germs become a significant part of the surface structure of the Earth.
The stones used to construct the pyramids in Egypt, for example, largely consist of the shells of countless protozoa, one of the many varieties of germs we'll take a look at in the course of this book.
Germs are so important in the ecology of the world that alien observers might conclude that they are the dominant life-form on our planet. These observers might logically see us human beings as just one of many species that have evolved from germs and continue to live among them. If we could have the observational data these aliens might compile, we could learn an enormous amount about our place in a "germ healthy" world.That's actually a good working description of what human science has tried to do in studying germs. The continuing benefits of that effort can improve the quality of life of everyone on the planet. In the course of a lifetime's involvement in studying germs, including the experience, as I will recount later, of helping to solve the mystery of toxic shock syndrome, I have gained an enduring admiration for the astonishing variety of germs and their seemingly limitless adaptability.



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