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The Germ Code

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Since the dawn of the human race, germs have been making us sick. Whether the ailment is a cold, the flu, diabetes, obesity or certain cancers, the likely cause is germs. Our ancient enemies have four families - bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa - and many names: Ebola, E. coli, salmonella, norovirus, gonorrhea. . . Human beings are engaged in a "war on germs," in whi Since the dawn of the human race, germs have been making us sick. Whether the ailment is a cold, the flu, diabetes, obesity or certain cancers, the likely cause is germs. Our ancient enemies have four families - bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa - and many names: Ebola, E. coli, salmonella, norovirus, gonorrhea. . . Human beings are engaged in a "war on germs," in which we develop ever-more sophisticated weapons and defensive strategies. But it is a war we can never win. Our best plan for staying as healthy is to choose our battles carefully, and try to co-exist with germs as best we can. The Germ Code is a wise, witty and wonderfully readable guide to our relationship with these infinitesimal but infinitely powerful creatures. Microbiologist Jason Tetro takes us outside the lab and shows the enormous influence of germs upon humanity's past, present and future. He unlocks the mysteries of "the germ code" to reveal how these organisms have exploited our every activity and colonized every corner of the earth. From his own research and personal experience, Tetro relates how the most recent flu pandemic happened, how others may have been averted and how more may come about if we aren't careful. He also explains that not every germ is our foe, and offers advice on harnessing the power of good germs to stay healthy and make our planet a better place.  The Germ Code is a fascinating journey through an unseen world, an essential manual to living in harmony with germs and a life-enhancing (as well as life-saving!) good read.


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Since the dawn of the human race, germs have been making us sick. Whether the ailment is a cold, the flu, diabetes, obesity or certain cancers, the likely cause is germs. Our ancient enemies have four families - bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa - and many names: Ebola, E. coli, salmonella, norovirus, gonorrhea. . . Human beings are engaged in a "war on germs," in whi Since the dawn of the human race, germs have been making us sick. Whether the ailment is a cold, the flu, diabetes, obesity or certain cancers, the likely cause is germs. Our ancient enemies have four families - bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa - and many names: Ebola, E. coli, salmonella, norovirus, gonorrhea. . . Human beings are engaged in a "war on germs," in which we develop ever-more sophisticated weapons and defensive strategies. But it is a war we can never win. Our best plan for staying as healthy is to choose our battles carefully, and try to co-exist with germs as best we can. The Germ Code is a wise, witty and wonderfully readable guide to our relationship with these infinitesimal but infinitely powerful creatures. Microbiologist Jason Tetro takes us outside the lab and shows the enormous influence of germs upon humanity's past, present and future. He unlocks the mysteries of "the germ code" to reveal how these organisms have exploited our every activity and colonized every corner of the earth. From his own research and personal experience, Tetro relates how the most recent flu pandemic happened, how others may have been averted and how more may come about if we aren't careful. He also explains that not every germ is our foe, and offers advice on harnessing the power of good germs to stay healthy and make our planet a better place.  The Germ Code is a fascinating journey through an unseen world, an essential manual to living in harmony with germs and a life-enhancing (as well as life-saving!) good read.

30 review for The Germ Code

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

    "Human beings are engaged in a 'war on germs', in which they develop ever-more sophisticated weapons and defensive strategies. But it is a war we can never win. The Germ Code is a wise, witty and wonderfully readable guide to living with these infinitesimal but infinitely powerful creatures. Microbiologist Jason Tetro takes readers outside the lab and shows the enormous influence of germs upon humanity's past, present and future. He unlocks the mysteries of 'the germ code' to reveal how these or "Human beings are engaged in a 'war on germs', in which they develop ever-more sophisticated weapons and defensive strategies. But it is a war we can never win. The Germ Code is a wise, witty and wonderfully readable guide to living with these infinitesimal but infinitely powerful creatures. Microbiologist Jason Tetro takes readers outside the lab and shows the enormous influence of germs upon humanity's past, present and future. He unlocks the mysteries of 'the germ code' to reveal how these organisms have exploited our every activity and colonised every corner of the earth." There used to be a commercial for a certain soap which claimed to kill 99.99 % of the germs we come into contact with on a daily basis. Personally, I found this worrisome because it wasn’t the 99.99 who were so easily killed a mild soap could do it but that hardy little .01% left to carry on that scared the bejeezus out of me. In The Germ Code author Jason Tetro AKA the germ guy explores how germs effect us both for good and for bad, which ones we should learn to coexist peaceably with and those we should bring out the big guns for and how, sometimes, the two can become interchangeable. He examines some of the methods developed to fight the most deadly microbes like malaria, why some succeeded and why many are now failing. He also looks at some of the new strategies which are being tested for diseases like Colitis, some of which are a tad disgusting but surprisingly effective. And, in case you have ever wondered, he explains which part of our body tells our life history through the germs living there and, trust me, it is not where you’re think. Honestly, someone needs to get that bar of soap out. The book is written in language even a scientifically challenged sort like me can understand. Tetro not only takes us on a fascinating stroll through the wonderful world of microbes but he lists strategies which can be taken to lessen their impact on our lives. I was surprised that he suggests using antibacterial products but, otherwise, I found The Germ Code both enjoyable and enlightening.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    If you want to learn “how to stop worrying and love the microbes”, the book’s subtitle, don’t read this book – the history of worrying diseases, many recently emerging, will not stop me worrying. The headline on the back cover “The war on germs can never be won” is both at odds with the subtitle and also not consistent with the idea of learning to coexist with microbes. There is a lot of information in this book but sloppy writing or editing tripped me up time and again. I felt the urge to edit If you want to learn “how to stop worrying and love the microbes”, the book’s subtitle, don’t read this book – the history of worrying diseases, many recently emerging, will not stop me worrying. The headline on the back cover “The war on germs can never be won” is both at odds with the subtitle and also not consistent with the idea of learning to coexist with microbes. There is a lot of information in this book but sloppy writing or editing tripped me up time and again. I felt the urge to edit frequently, sometimes to clarify, sometimes just to make it easier to read. The code (‘In order to survive and thrive, germs evolve and adapt’ p.16) seems important to remember, although the book does not make very clear that this is intended to be the code. I was surprised to read that there are 2 billion kinds of bacteria (p. 23), so I checked Wikipedia and references there - about 10,000 species have been described, genetic analysis has distinguished about 70,000, and estimates of bacterial diversity range from 107 to 109 total species, so it appears that Jason is being overly precise, if not necessarily overestimating. Page 25: ‘viruses…need to be inside…a cell to survive’ – not so, just to replicate. Page 27: ‘Nematodes… akin to other bacteria…’ – but nematodes are not bacteria. Page 28: ‘prion…comes in 2 forms – normal and variant’ – but normally (and more usefully), prion is a term used to describe the misfolded variant, not the normal protein. “…open space in the brain called a plaque” (p.28 still) – the plaque may push normal tissue aside, but a plaque is not open space. Page 37: ‘including… the bacterium that causes whooping cough, typhoid fever…’ – surely not the same bacterium?? Pp. 43-4: WHO created in 1945 & 2 decades later wipes out smallpox in 1979?? P. 45: ‘realization that animal health was just as important as human health’ – really? Same page: ‘our reliance on agriculture is unprecedented’ – huh? - most of us have depended on agriculture for most of our food for 10000 years. Tetro repeatedly and confusingly brings up “Koch’s postulates” as though the reader will remember his obscure introduction of them on p.22 (I looked it up in the index). His flippant style often grates (eg Pseudomonas takes advantage of CF patients’ weakness to take up “happy” residence – p.52). I could go on.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Schwan

    The first one third of this book is not very interesting, the last two thirds was quite informative. This book gives an overview of germs and seems to blur the line between bacteria and viruses. While a good part of the book deals with bad germs (pathological ones), a surprising amount of the book covers good germs and how they dominate the human biome. Overall well worth reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Although very interesting, it left we wanting more depth and more details. With several other published books in the same vain, I would have like to find better information either on the "germs" themselves or on the impact on humans lives. Additional facts on how keeping a proper balance would be beneficial not only to us but to our environment. Although very interesting, it left we wanting more depth and more details. With several other published books in the same vain, I would have like to find better information either on the "germs" themselves or on the impact on humans lives. Additional facts on how keeping a proper balance would be beneficial not only to us but to our environment.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Josette Garfinkiel

    Very interesting and informative

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    While the title The Germ Code is a somewhat misleading, the book is an enjoyable, light-hearted and informative read. It may not be suitable for someone with a biochemistry degree but it was good enough for the biological laymen (e.g. me). Tetro uses the phrase 'germ code' indiscriminately - probably trying to make up for the poor choice in title - and by the mid point I was sick of the expression. The book isn't really written to address the germ code but is instead a general history of germs, While the title The Germ Code is a somewhat misleading, the book is an enjoyable, light-hearted and informative read. It may not be suitable for someone with a biochemistry degree but it was good enough for the biological laymen (e.g. me). Tetro uses the phrase 'germ code' indiscriminately - probably trying to make up for the poor choice in title - and by the mid point I was sick of the expression. The book isn't really written to address the germ code but is instead a general history of germs, microbes, and other famous/deadly pathogens. Clearly, it was written for the mass paperback market, - which suits me fine - but, in setting his sights on this market, Tetro fails to give any one topic the breadth it deserves. Complicated social, biological, and research ideas are presented to the reader and then summarily dismissed or brushed aside as the author pushes on to something new. It left me with many unanswered questions.... and perhaps that was his point. After all, this was his first book and I get the feeling it was the first step in building a larger public profile. The author has an honourary PhD from Social Media University (?) and, as far as I can tell, an undergraduate degree from Waterloo in Microbiology. There are probably smarter microbiologists and better writers out there, but Jason Tetro has a certain attraction in his simplicity and straightforward approach. I have already recommended The Germ Code it to a few friends and family members (all biology laymen). A good follow-up documentary from a more respectable source is 'Aliens Inside Us' by Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello and produced by the Smithsonian Channel.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth Manley

    I actually really liked this book, more than I thought I would. It was written simple enough for anyone to be able to read but a background in science, especially biology, was definitely helpful. So many interesting stories about past disease outbreaks or discoveries of how germs cured those diseases. We don't think about how significant a role that germs have in day to day activities or how useful they've been in making antibiotics, antioxidants, drugs, etc. We mostly see them as the cause of d I actually really liked this book, more than I thought I would. It was written simple enough for anyone to be able to read but a background in science, especially biology, was definitely helpful. So many interesting stories about past disease outbreaks or discoveries of how germs cured those diseases. We don't think about how significant a role that germs have in day to day activities or how useful they've been in making antibiotics, antioxidants, drugs, etc. We mostly see them as the cause of diseases but they're also the cure for them too. The book also had fun facts about germs and studies done: Did you know someone's belly button germs can tell you about where they grew up as a child or where they went to university? I made a list of things discussed in the book that I want to keep researching and learning more about. It wasn't the typical "fun summer read" but I was really intrigued by each chapter.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John

    If you want to read a history of some of the most well known disease-causing germs this is the book for you. If you want to know about why we shouldn't be fighting the battle against germs in the way we have been, as the book was purported to be about by the author, you will be disappointed like I was. There's about 20 pages of the book on recent advances in research on the role of our microbiome in maintaining health but that's it. I heard the author speak on the radio about the book and he mad If you want to read a history of some of the most well known disease-causing germs this is the book for you. If you want to know about why we shouldn't be fighting the battle against germs in the way we have been, as the book was purported to be about by the author, you will be disappointed like I was. There's about 20 pages of the book on recent advances in research on the role of our microbiome in maintaining health but that's it. I heard the author speak on the radio about the book and he made it sound like the whole book was going to be about embracing the germs that are naturally part of our bodies, and not simply killing them all off with antibiotics, but sadly it was not. Or not nearly enough of it for me. Still not a terrible read if you are into microbes but not a book I would recommend to many.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Helena

    A good, readable, informative book. My only problem is that the first three quarters of the book made me want to disinfect everything I touch. My concern is that someone might get bogged down in the "bad germ" section, quit reading, and never get to the "good germ" section, which, presumably, is the purpose of the book (if the sub-title holds true: "how to stop worrying and love the microbes"). But there is a lot of good information. And the cover led to some interesting discussions with my 5-yr A good, readable, informative book. My only problem is that the first three quarters of the book made me want to disinfect everything I touch. My concern is that someone might get bogged down in the "bad germ" section, quit reading, and never get to the "good germ" section, which, presumably, is the purpose of the book (if the sub-title holds true: "how to stop worrying and love the microbes"). But there is a lot of good information. And the cover led to some interesting discussions with my 5-yr old who even had me reading passages to him. About ebola no less.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa H

    I really enjoyed this book and believe that it can really change the way we think about germs. As Tetro says "Don't Panic... Of the millions of species, most are harmless, while only a fraction are mostly harmless". instead of trying to wipe out all germs Tetro points to the need to cultivate our relationship with beneficial germs and to use simple steps to attempt to eliminate the harm causes by pathogens without allowing them to use the germ code to develop resistance. Overall, an incredibly enl I really enjoyed this book and believe that it can really change the way we think about germs. As Tetro says "Don't Panic... Of the millions of species, most are harmless, while only a fraction are mostly harmless". instead of trying to wipe out all germs Tetro points to the need to cultivate our relationship with beneficial germs and to use simple steps to attempt to eliminate the harm causes by pathogens without allowing them to use the germ code to develop resistance. Overall, an incredibly enlightening read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Owen

    This was an interesting book, although it was not really what I thought it would be. The author goes to great pains to explain that a small number of bacteria are pathogenic, and then proceeds to detail the really scary, gory pathogens. If his thesis was that we need to focus on the other, helpful or benign, bacteria, and I think it was, then I think he or his editor missed the boat.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Shaw

    A very informative, interesting and at times scary read. Tetro does a good job of explaining the history of our understanding, treatment and prevention of germs in language that lay people can understand.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tasha

    Great look at how we live with germs, and how they have been beneficial to humans (in addition to harmful pathogens). Very recent, so includes SARS, swine flu, and more recent research.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Glennis

    A great read! Good information and insight that a layman would understand.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Connie Herrington

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  17. 4 out of 5

    J

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul Vittay

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christine

  21. 4 out of 5

    ed

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eve Candel

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aji Nur

  24. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Hilborn

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura Gause

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

  27. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Boyes

  28. 5 out of 5

    Daniel MacEachern

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Wildman

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

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