In his exciting new book, John Mann, author of the highly successful Murder, Magic, and Medicine, reveals the history of the drugs that are so commonplace today in the treatment of disease. While we can now treat so many of these illnesses, the side-effects caused by many of these treatments can be severe, and even more worrying - the bacteria are now becoming more resistant to the drugs (the so-called 'superbugs'). Scientists are also faced with a massive challenge in developing drugs that can effectively treat HIV, ebola, and many forms of cancer, but without the terrible side-effects of such treatments as chemotherapy or AZT - this is the quest for the 'magic bullet.' The book starts with a history of drug development, introducing us to some of the fascinating characters whose work so influenced the search for these drugs. Leading up to the present day, and the exciting advances being made within molecular biology, the book provides a lively, and fascinating introduction for non-scientists to one of the most exciting fields of activity within modern medicine.
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How does a drug know what to cure, and what to leave alone? In a book that complements his earlier Murder, Magic, and Medicine (1992), Mann tells the story of how drugs--from the earliest chemical preparations to today's designer prodrugs and engineered viruses--have been developed to treat bacterial infections, viral infections, and cancer. Curing disease, Mann argues, would be relatively easy if it weren't so necessary that the patient survive the treatment. Drugs that cure diseases but leave patients standing have come in leaps and bounds in recent years, but progress, while swift, can never be steady. Pathogens, for one thing, do not stand still; therefore, to take the obvious example, naive or lazy overuse of antibiotics accelerates the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains. We are certainly no longer living in a society in which, in Bacon's famous formulation, "you would call a physician, that is thought good for the cure of the disease you complain of but is unacquainted with your body ... and so cure the disease and kill the patient." But neither have we quite mastered the art of making drugs that target and eradicate pathogens and malignancies with the niceness of a "magic bullet." Mann's account achieves a nice balance of optimism and realism; it is more likely to inspire than to comfort. Today's researchers are unlikely to come away contemplating early retirement, or, to give Mann's enthusiasm its due, even wanting to. --Simon Ings, Amazon.co.ukAbout the Author:
John Mann is the Professor of Chemistry at the University of Reading, and author of the highly successful 'Murder, magic, and medicine', OUP (1992)
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