March 20, 2014
Missing Microbes by Martin J. Blaser
I am not a doctor, nurse, scientist, really any type of person in the medical field. I'm just a person who thinks that reading about medical issues is interesting. So it's important for you to know that I'm going into this review without a lot of background and understanding of microbes and biology. There, the disclaimer is over with.
Missing Microbes is about the microbes in your body and the use of antibiotics. It explores the concept that perhaps we are doing ourselves a disservice by using so many antibiotics and that some of the microbes previously thought harmful, are in fact an integral part of our body's system and essential to our well being. Especially explored is H. Pylori that resides in your digestive system and is thought to be a contributor to stomach cancer and ulcers. Previously eradicated when it was found, new research is showing that it helps protect against other ailments and the destruction of it with antibiotics may not be the best course of action. There is also a section on birth and the impact that caesarian sections has on the passing of natural microbes from mother to infant. And several other facts about the bacteria in our bodies.
You can definitely tell the author wanted you to know what he's contributed to the field. And there's nothing wrong with that although it is a little distracting. Most of the focus is on the research and several studies are described. I appreciated the fact that it was written in language that I could understand. While there were some medical concepts that were a little harder for me, by and large, I understood the descriptions and theories that were presented in this book. I imagine someone in the medical field would understand it a lot better than I though as they are already comfortable with the terminology and different theories being presented. I also appreciated that the chapters flowed together smoothly and that while new concepts were introduced in each one, there was a transition that helped guide from talking about one topic to the next.
I learned a lot from this book. For instance, I never realized that antibiotics are given to farm animals to make them gain weight. I always figured it was because disease was rampant when you pack animals in together so tight. The experiments performed on mice showing how antibiotics caused gain of both fat and muscle in early "childhood" was an interesting concept when thinking about the obesity epidemic that the United States and many other countries are facing right now. However, as said before, I am not a scientist and cannot comment as to the validity of any of these experiments, although it seems (judging from the quite large notes section in the back) that the author did the research and in fact had performed many of the experiments himself. I believe it's best to look at your information from all sides though and not to take anything from any one paper or book as the absolute truth.
This book does present some compelling arguments about the use of antibiotics. Even if you're not worried about super-bugs from overuse, there are several other factors that have only started to be researched. Anyone interested in bacteria, microbes, and the use of modern medicine would probably find this book a good read.