Using descriptions, personal stories and anecdotes, this study tells of the origins, biology and destiny of diseases such as bubonic plague, malaria, typhoid, syphilis and AIDS. Drawing on evidence from places as remote from each other as the slums of Calcutta and the Peruvian rain forests, the work shows how the evolution of plagues has also played an important role in shaping the human species. It emphasizes that plagues are unusual events and the cells which cause them have often gone out on a evolutionary limb, risking their own destruction. The scientific insights demonstrate how plague organisms risk wiping out the hosts that harbour them, thus making an epidemic a type of evolutionary suicide for the organism itself.
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'Plagues' goes beyond the terrifying news stories about outbreaks of disease in Rwanda, India and Kenya to ask the simple, fascinating question: why are there plagues? This important, accessible book provides new perspectives on the problem of human disease – a problem as old as the human race itself.
“Disease is an illuminating mirror to hold up against mankind, and Wills's discovery of a variegated genetic beauty underlying it all is a great feat of empathy.”
ROGER CLARKE, 'Independent'
“Charles Darwin had that rare knack of combining personal reminiscence with scientific instruction; the late Lewis Thomas was a genius at doing that for clinical medicine; and Wills is their worthy successor… Combining history, travelogue, scientific exposition, autobiography and commentary on world affairs and eco-politics, Wills provides a sure guide to the medical problems and promises of the end of the second millennium, and enlarges our grasp of the evolution of disease.”
ROY PORTER, 'The Times'
“The ambiguous role of bacteria in human affairs is the essential theme of 'Plagues'. At one level, it is quite a straightforward retelling of the history of the great plagues of the past – cholera, typhus, syphilis and the Black Death. But Christopher Wills is also very good on the details of the mechanisms by which bacteria caused these plagues, offering numerous insights into their phenomenal ability to alter their environment to their own advantage.”
JAMES LE FANU, 'Literary Review'
“Illuminating and compulsive”
MICHAEL WHITE, 'Mail on Sunday'
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Book Description Flamingo, 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 6548695