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Viruses: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Dorothy H. Crawford
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 July 2011 Very Short Introductions
Viruses are big news. From pandemics such as HIV, swine flu, and SARS, we are constantly being bombarded with information about new lethal infections. In this Very Short Introduction Dorothy Crawford demonstrates how clever these entities really are. From their discovery and the unravelling of their intricate structures, Crawford demonstrates how these tiny parasites are by far the most abundant life forms on the planet. With up to two billion of them in each litre of sea water, viruses play a vital role in controlling the marine environment and are essential to the ocean's delicate ecosystem. Analyzing the threat of emerging virus infections, Crawford recounts stories of renowned killer viruses such as Ebola and rabies as well as the less known bat-borne Nipah and Hendra viruses. Pinpointing wild animals as the source of the most recent pandemics, she discusses the reasons behind the present increase in potentially fatal infections, as well as evidence suggesting that long term viruses can eventually lead to cancer. By examining our lifestyle in the 21st century, Crawford looks to the future to ask whether we can ever live in harmony with viruses, and considers the ways in which we may need to adapt to prevent emerging viruses with devastating consequences. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

Frequently Bought Together

Viruses: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Bacteria: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + The Cell: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Price For All Three: 16.17

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition (28 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199574855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199574858
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.9 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 36,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


a diminutive volume that provides a surprisinly complete and beautifully readable overview to this topic - all without resorting to specialist jargon. The Guardian

About the Author

Dorothy H. Crawford is Emeritus Professor of Medical Microbiology and Honorary Assistant Principal for Public Understanding of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent synopsis 26 Aug 2011
By Stephen
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This introduction to viruses is avowedly written for the general reader, and covers the topic very comprehensively for such a short book. I knew almost nothing about viruses except that they make me ill. I did not know that the oceans are teeming with viruses and that viruses go back a long way into history; and that many of them do not make people ill. The author describes clearly and carefully the properties and characteristics of viruses, how they function as parasites in animal and plant cells, and what can be done to counter them. (Keeping away from Africa and bats seems to be advisable.) I'm no biologist, but I felt I was not being patronised, and I was left much better informed.

This is well written and an excellent synopsis of the subject. Strongly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's catchy 5 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Very Short Introduction series are written by professors of the subject and are aimed at provoking cross-discipline intrigue in the reader that may incite further investigation and reading - and boy are they good at achieving exactly that; often they leave more questions than answers.

Viruses cover the structure, transmission and nature of viruses. Detailing the major types (Herpes, Hepatic & Oncogenic) and listing their prevalence, composition and likely origins using the molecular clock method. The range and scope of these chapters (the core of the book) is astounding, nearly all of us will be carrying some of this selection of passengers which make it all the more relevant to have some sort of understanding of them and their spread.

It also covers vaccines and antivirals and looks to the future, stating that we have only just scratched the surface of the virosphere and there are many, many more 'new' viruses out there just waiting to be discovered. Best of all, the book has been written for the initiate to the subject, even stating this point and points anyone to the glossary should there be a verbal curve-ball in there.

I read this in a string of VSIs (Bacteria:VSI, Viruses:VSI & finally Epidemiology:VSI) and would really, really recommend doing this as there is significant overlap and the trio really fit together to paint a greater picture. All in all, a great little 131-page A6 VSI wrapped in a Rothko-esque cover. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a non-fiction page-turner 11 Sep 2013
By Mr R
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is amazingly readable (having read 'The Invisible Enemy' by the same author, several years back, I expected greater technical detail and higher demands on concentration). There are many commendable features:

(a) it is written clearly, conveying the author's enthusiasm, and is nowhere patronising;
(b) it is so packed with memorable details, that I pencil-marked sections to revisit; eg, on p16 we read that there are more viruses in the world than all other forms of life added together, and on p21 we find that phytoplankton produce almost half the world's oxygen;
(c) the humour is delightful; eg Peter Medawar's description of a virus as "a piece of bad news wrapped up in protein".
The later chapters of the book are simply so exciting that I found it almost impossible to finish a chapter without starting the next. A treat!
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5.0 out of 5 stars cracking good read 9 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
one of those books that enthrals and prompts one to go and find out more. just what one would hope from a very short introduction.
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