Invincible Microbe by Jim Murphy

Invincible MicrobeTB—tuberculosis– runs in my family. My father had it during WWII. I had it in the 1970s and my oldest son had it in the 1990s.

My father had told me stories of what sounded medieval torture—that masqueraded as medical treatment–when he was a patient in a military sanitorium during the war. He routinely had his lung collapsed by well meaning doctors who would wait awhile for it to re-inflated and then do it again. It must have been ghastly but, that was thought to be the most effective way to affect a cure in those days. Almost thirty years later when I was diagnosed, I had to take three to five pills a day for several years. But luckily, there was no torture. By the time my son was told that he too, had TB, the treatment was down to one pill a day.

According to Jim Murphy, Siebert award winning author of Invincible Microbe, our treatments pretty much followed those generally prescribed for our times. It is a blessing that our story did not start 30 years earlier when most people diagnosed with tuberculosis, or consumption as it was called, did not survive.

It may have been interesting but can’t have been pleasant to write about a disease that has been a scourge on humanity. However, as usual, Murphy has done an admirable job taking information that might be little known to the general public and making it so readable, so compelling, that it becomes a topic that you feel you must know about. He doesn’t sugar coat TB with a “that’s all in the past” message. Murphy makes it clear that tuberculosis may have appeared long ago but it’s also very much in the present and in a more robust, difficult to treat version, to boot.

At the same time, he’s no pessimist. He includes the details, quotes the experts and manages to make facts and figures read like a masterful suspense novel.

TB may be invincible, but Jim Murphy isn’t far behind.

Posted by: Eileen

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