Table of Contents
The book starts off with a scary scene in a general hospital in Hawaii with lots of vehicles coming in with patients from the Perl harbor, it mentions the types of vehicle ; military trucks, ambulances, and private cars. Men with serious injuries either badly wounded, burned in oils or fractured borne were scattered all over the lawns in front of the hospital where they received treatment for a continuous eleven hours. It goes ahead to give the description of the rooms and the number which is three rooms that were full of patients with different types of injuries. It contrasts the situation with the world war where scores died and many were injured while at the hospital no one succumbed to the injuries thanks to the discovery of sulfa drugs which is an antibiotic. In the story of the war it is approximated that many soldiers died of infections that by the weapons. This story is given by series of suspense from the war front and the political conspiracy in Europe that resulted to World War II. Scientists went to the labs researching on drugs and testing procedures of which some resulted into accidental discoveries that up to date have helped in reducing the effects of infections.
In this book the writer (Thomas Hager, 2007), unfolds the history of one drug that completely changed the lives of many and gave the shape of the modern treatment and medicine. He highlight the lives saved and key among them was of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr who were great people of their generations and even today they still are. The effect of the drug did not just stop at saving lives from infections but it changed lots of things, medical procedures, way patients were treated by doctors and it was the start of modern treatment. It introduces the concept of developing medicines in the lab for treatment of diseases and infections to doing away with the causes of diseases by use of vaccines. The steps that were followed to the drug discovery and the tests that were carried out helped the researcher to be aware of the effects they could cause to human kind and thus be able to anticipate the outcome. Most of these tests were carried out in labs in Germany.
This is story is colored in the way the characters are described from the skimming character of the politicians in developing strategies, personal idealism, swift breaks, cynics, boldness, self-greed and the tough work that resulted to the discovery of sulfa. The book outlines an interesting scientific story with the suspense that came with the discovery and also gives the base that led to the discovery of the drug. For several years the human race has crippled with the diseases, some of their struggles have paid off though slowly and some vaccines have slowly come into existence. The book mentions the existence of drugs that could treat diseases such as malaria or TB but the deadly of the time was a small organism called bacteria, by the year 1931 there was no treatment of a disease caused by a bacteria but demons under microscope describes the discovery of a drug that solved.
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Due to the reason that it was not patented by any company, sulfa sparked a revolution in the medicine industry and many companies started its production all over. In the US approximately one hundred people succumbed to death due to presence of toxic substances in the drug and this resulted into the introduction of safety measures which included enactment of laws to govern the production of the drug. Safety tests were introduced on testing production of the products and as a result, sulfa became a prescription drug.
Understanding this book a lay man
Hager's account opens on the war front and brings the knowledge of medicine and normal life and it tries to link the two. The writer explains all the concepts and he has managed to make the book easy to read and understand by the people within the medical industry and those outside. By analyzing the relationship between the discovery of the drug and the events that led to that it becomes easy for individuals to understand even if they lack any background in medicine. Understanding of bacteria as a disease causal agent by many took time but by reading this book one can easily understand. Procedures that are followed to the discovery of sulfa and other drugs in the lab has been well analyzed in his book using simple language well known to a lay man though with little medical jargon.
Over time the human history, human beings have developed many ways that are interconnected and validated about the physical and biological sciences and in his book he taps into this and therefore people are easy to relate to it. These ideas have enabled many generations to identify with it. He understands the human race and its surrounding and therefore the discovery of the drug is founded on this simple understanding. He explains the fundamental aspects of science and how they led to the discovery of the drug.
Concept in the book
Something in the air
In the first section the book outlines the anthrax outbreak in the United States and also shows how this was dealt with by the U S Army medical research institute of medical research. The dreaming demon was mentioned in the second chapter where it explains the successful efforts by the local public health authorities in dealing with the outbreak of smallpox and it goes ahead to describe the vaccination. In the same book it shows how USAMRIID microbiologist trying to get approval to do research on animals about the smallpox infection and mentions the rules that could be involved in acquiring the permit which includes the Animal Efficacy Rule and the World Health Organization general assembly provisions for research permission. It explains the development of a lethal investigation and the implications of the infection by the virus for bioterrorism by discussing the introduction in monkeys for the first time in human kind.
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Most of the time it the military the doctors were forced to amputate body parts so as to control the infections of bacteria such as Clostridium perfringen sands which mostly affected women and children causing them stomach pains, coughing and very high fever. Women who had just delivered experienced hard uterus or occasionally black tongues.
Before the antibiotics were discovered more deaths occurred at the hospitals compared to the battlefield because there is no control of the bacterial infections as many people died through wounds caused from the battle field. The wounds caused on the battle field in most cases had sand particles, cloth pieces, glass pieces or even broken objects in them or around. The military doctors tried their best to clean the wounds but more often they could not remove the residue due to it being hidden further below the skin or the wound
The effects of pure sulfa were far reaching and due to lack of the azo dye, it fought the infection but also left the dye to be visible in the skin. Such simple compounds were not patentable and they limited the profits to no particular company. This was not the only reason why the Germans did not continue with the research but because of their respect to the dye company and they saw no reason in abandoning it. The maneuvers between science and business was well expressed in the struggle of patent rights for the production of the drug, companies pulled out of its production because of lack of profits from it despite the fact that it was the ultimate solution. Main reason why it was difficult to patent it was that there were several components that were required in its production.
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This book has discussed many issues in relation to the discovery of Sulfa as a solution to bacterial infection which was a major killer during the World War II, but fails to describe the how the greed could be dealt with in the current world and separate it from the issues related to medication.
Its understanding by a layman
As discussed above, this book can be easily understood by a lay man due to its simplicity in the way the concepts are laid. A lay man needs something that he/she can easily identify to and interesting to read of which this book as managed to do so without compromising the content. In the reading of the book one can easily pick out the concept of the whole book from the start and this will keep him glued to it until he is through and he will have understood.
In trying to argue out my point I made reference to biotechnology and genetic engineering to beef up the argument that this put down the facts in a simple language that can be understood by a layman. This book shows the doctors heroic work in search for medication or vaccines for infections. To conclude, this can be used as a source of information and also as an interesting novel because of how it tells the history of the world war two and discovery in an interesting way.
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