Science fiction and fantasy
Toxin: The Cunning Of Bacterial Poisons
by Alistair Lax
By the middle of the book Lax gets to the nitty-gritty of explaining how bacteria work. He details things like cell signalling, processes of cell disruption, and how proteins, DNA, and cancer can be affected by bacterial toxins. The author doesn't talk down to his readers, and as a result it's a very informative overview. But at the same time this is accessible enough to be understood by someone without a science degree.
The book also deals with the use of toxins in crime and biological warfare. It's a lurid and scary history which will make readers want to boil their water and disinfect their surfaces in paranoia. Some of the history of bioweapons is very dark. Fortunately there's also a positive side to toxins in terms of discovering cancer therapies, vaccines, and other uses for toxins that are only just emerging, and this side of the story gets equal attention.
I enjoyed this book's lucid, readable style. It's the kind of writing that inspires a greater interest in microbiology by opening up our eyes to the complex and intriguing battles that go on every time we catch an infection. Highly recommended.
13th September 2010
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