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Book Review

Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease

By Sharon Moalem, PhD
HarperCollins Publishers., 2007, 253 pages, hard cover, $25.95

Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease, is an intriguing book. It always asks: Why? It is written in an easy-to-read, conversational style with quite a bit of humor thrown in.

The author explains very well the science behind evolution, medications and diseases. The book describes why certain diseases like hemochromatosis (a hereditary disorder that disrupts iron absorption) exist despite evolution. People with hemochromatosis are also resistant to the plague; therefore, they survived with a chronic disease rather than die early from the plague.

Another chapter defines the various types of diabetes. The author discusses studies that show the wood frog uses glucose to freeze itself each winter and then wakes up each spring perfectly healthy. This wonder of nature may help us better manage diabetes and preserve organs for transplantation.

The study of disease and its prevalence in certain populations is presented. The author offers an explanation about why African-Americans may have higher cholesterol than other races. The chapter, "Of Microbes and Men," will help the reader better understand the relationship among humans and plants, animals and microbes.

These are just a few of the areas of Moalem's research and thoughts included in this book. While not useful for everyday nursing practice, I recommend it for nurses interested in community health or infection control. Any nurse interested in the history of medicine or what advances we may see will find this book fascinating.

Reviewer Amy Luckowski is a lecturer of nursing at Widener University, Chester, PA.

This book may be obtained from the publisher; go to

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