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The Invisible Enemy: A Natural History of Viruses Paperback – 21 Mar 2002
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Though the Berlin Wall has fallen, we find ourselves still struggling with an even older enemy in the eternal Common Cold War. Virologist Dorothy H Crawford has studied the link between Epstein-Barr virus and human cancer for years and casts a wary eye through the electron microscope to check up on them and report on our strange and occasionally deadly symbiosis in The Invisible Enemy.
This slim book, scholarly but accessible, examines these barely-living (or unliving, depending on whom you ask) gene packages with a strong emphasis on their disease-causing antics and the intellectual heroics of the various campaigns of eradication and control humans have waged for centuries. Though biological relativists might cringe occasionally at Crawford's dogged humanocentrism, few of them would really pine for the days of smallpox or embrace the raging HIV pandemic if pressed. Crawford looks at the wake of devastation left by these two viruses as well as her own favorite subject, which is strongly implicated in the formation of many cancers. Going a bit farther afield, she explains the weird behavior of the non-genetic reproduction of prions that cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy; though these scary proteins aren't viruses by any definition, their behavior is similar enough to warrant inclusion. The Invisible Enemy, calmer than its title would suggest, provokes a sense of optimism in the reader; though the war might last forever, we can hope for fewer and fewer casualties as the years go by.--Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Review from previous edition "The book is lovingly researched and packed with fascinating anecdotes and I found it extremely difficult to put down...No home is complete without this book, if only as a reminder to wash your hands." (Press and Journal)
The Invisible Enemy is accessbile to the genereal reader, accurate and thought-provoking (Ian Simmons, The Fortean Times)
"I recommend The Invisible Enemy to anyone with questions about the nature of viruses and their role in human diseases...The Invisible Enemy is a clear and powerful beacon that penetrates the increasingly dense fog of media reports, folklore and myths" (New Scientist)
"Professor Crawford writes in a clear and accessible manner, which successfully conveys her fascination with the subject, and poses lots of interesting questions. Recommended reading for microbiologists; highly recommended for journalists, politicians and the public seeking understanding of big topical issues such as AIDS/HIV and BSE/CJD." (Microbiology Today)
"...this fascinating book provides a rapid and accessible introduction to modern virology". (Nature)
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Top Customer Reviews
This book should come with a 'Highly Recommended' label. For those who have ever felt the slightest pang of curiosity when our doctor tells us we are suffering from "only a virus" (when we feel that we are at death's door), at last we have a book that explains in plain language how one of man's greatest enemies - viruses - work ! The most deadly infectious disease of the present day, the world's biggest killer, is a virus - Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). However, viruses and man go back millions of years to the evolution of our earliest ancestors. Since the dawn of civilisation, approximately 10,000 years ago, viral infections have outwitted us at every turn, and still manage to do so. Amazingly, just over 100 years ago, medical science had still failed to discern that viruses were responsible for some of our most common afflictions. Only within the last century have we managed to: - establish the disease associations of viruses and man - isolate 20 families of viruses that infect humans (some with over 100 family members !) - produce images of viruses, using the electron microscope - analyse the genetic makeup of some viruses, (and exploit them using genetic engineering) - produce effective treatments and vaccines for viruses (but these are sadly few) We have even succeeded in completely eradicating one virus infection within the population - the dreaded smallpox, which until 1980 was responsible for approximately 4 million deaths per year, worldwide. These are all major achievements, but new virus infections are emerging all the time - for example, HIV was unknown until the early 1980's. This means that the battle against these old adversaries is never likely to stop !Read more ›
The rapid evolution of viruses was discussed. However, I felt that there was a deterministic feel to this discussion, with the impression that viruses are able to choose a partcular pathway to evolve. Rather, in a virus population, a small number will, though chance will have the ability to exploit a particular niche, for example by surviving in the GU tract. These will be favoured and will thus dominate the future viral "fauna" for that viral type. I think the book was written this way as a simplification but I feel it is an important point - viral evolution is critical to understanding and combatting viral infections.
I am glad that the author included the transmissable spongiform encephalopathies in the book. At the moment, these appear to be auto-catalytic proteins able to make copies of themselves. They may have parallels to viruses, and there is much of interest in their studies.
I enjoyed the chapter on viruses and cancer. It has been difficult to conclusively demonstrate a direct link between virus and cancer except in a few particular cancers such as Burkitt's Lymphoma. From a theoretical point of view, since viruses integrate their genome with the host's genome it is not unreasonable that viruses may have a role in inducing cancers.
Overall, this is a well-written book that is of especial use to those who are not familiar with this area of science. A helpful glossary is also included.
What I found particularly convincing abut the book was how the author mentions 'pandemics' and how one was due to occur in 2010. We are now all aware that such an event has indeed taken place, in the form of 'swine flu'. The author saw this coming, and I am sure they were probably watching the news at some point and thought, 'I told you so!".
There is so much we can learn from this book, I can't recommend it enough!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this book on the strength of the reviews on Amazon, but it failed to live up to what was written about it. Read morePublished on 18 Nov. 2010 by Richard
I found the book very interesting, informative and aimed at the general audiance. A good read for all ages.Published on 8 Oct. 2009 by grey elephant
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