Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues – It's What We're Reading


December 2014 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues
Martin J. Blaser

We may not think about it often, but we share our bodies with trillions of bacteria which have evolved together with us in a usually beneficial symbiosis. Widespread use of antibiotics in humans and animals is having unintended consequences because they kill microbes indiscriminately: good as well as bad. This book goes far beyond the well-known phenomenon of antibiotic-resistant germs.

Dr. Blaser, an infectious disease expert at NYU, explains the link between antibiotics and the increased prevalence during the 20th century of a host of chronic health problems: asthma, allergies, obesity, GERD, Chron’s disease, gluten intolerance and, possibly, autism. Antibiotics, especially those given in early childhood, impede the natural development of a healthy bacterial environment in the digestive system. Delivery by C-section, now at a whopping 1/3 of all U.S. births, also interferes with the immune system because the baby misses picking up important microbes residing in the mother’s birth canal. Recommendations include minimizing antibiotic use to truly necessary cases, using targeted rather than wide spectrum drugs, and avoiding optional caesarean births. Blaser is hopeful that further research will lead to the development of therapies to reintroduce specific healthy bacteria into our digestive systems when a course of live-saving antibiotics is unavoidable.

Missing Microbes can be found in the Popular Reading: Nonfiction section on the first floor of Post Learning Commons.