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The Good Virus

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781529365283

Price: £12.99

ON SALE: 27th June 2024

Genre: Mathematics & Science

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The viruses that do us harm are vastly outnumbered by viruses that can actually save lives. These good viruses are called ‘phages’, and they are the most abundant life form on Earth.

The Good Virus reveals how these weird and wonderful microbes shape our health, support our ecosystems and could be the future of medicine.


Incredible and thought provoking. Phages are the superheroes of the human biome. A truly enlightening read that makes you realise what we really don't yet know.
Professor Dame Sue Black
This thrilling book will amaze you. Viruses have been attacking bacteria since the dawn of time, but in the last century some scientists have been able to enlist them in the fight against bacterial infections. Tom Ireland's limpid writing tells the exciting story of the past and future of "phage therapy", balanced by a sober exploration of the problems involved in turning the good viruses into treatments. Highly recommended.
Professor Matthew Cobb
A masterful blend of jaw-dropping science and absorbing storytelling shows that we live on a planet run by super-abundant, sub-microscopic biological entities. Besides revealing a fundamental aspect of how life on Earth really works, this book reminds us of the missed opportunities we simply cannot afford to miss again. It is both incredibly well researched and very timely.
George McGavin
A fascinating and absorbing guide to this abundant but rarely studied life form, the book takes us through the discovery of bacteriophages, their use in laboratory research and highlights their increasingly likely future as a weapon against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert
A new scientific frontier that couldn't be more fascinating or vital. Phages are critical to our health, and the health of the whole planet. Brilliantly written and profound, this book is ahead of the curve and deserves to become a classic.
Daniel M. Davis, author of The Beautiful Cure and The Secret Body
Outstanding. The Good Virus is a fascinating, original and timely work.
Clive Myrie
It is rare to find such a rich seam of science that is so pertinent to modern health concerns yet feels so under recognised. Everybody knows about good bacteria but I doubt they have heard of good viruses (I hadn't). Environmental pollution and antibiotic resistance are two of the world's biggest problems and to think the solution to those may have been with us all along is both fascinating and exciting to learn. This book is full of gems of information and hope for the future. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Suzanne O'Sullivan
Most viruses do no harm to humans - and, as this fascinating book explains, a large class of them might even prove our saviours ... [Phages] regulate our gut microbiome, are crucial to marine ecosystems, and inspired the modern Crispr technique of gene-editing ... All this and more is thrillingly recounted in Tom Ireland's superb book. This is real luxury-class science writing, exploring how a "Stalin-tainted" idea from long ago can be rehabilitated, alternating scientist interviews and vivid case studies of miraculous-seeming cures with historical narrative and limpid biotechnological explanations ... He also demonstrates excellent comic timing.
Steven Poole, Telegraph
This engaging book highlights the brighter side of the viral world ... a delight. To learn more about phages is to discover fascinating details about a hidden world ... Ireland offers riveting accounts ... The Good Virus is timely ... It's an exciting time for a field that has, for too long, been unfairly overlooked.
Tom Ireland's compelling and original book makes a strong case for revisiting phage therapy ... richly detailed and absorbing, and well balanced between the biological details and the personalities and scientific politics involved ... The Good Virus is original, eye-opening and grippingly told.
New Scientist
Today programme, BBC Radio 4
Absolutely smashing. It's really beautifully written, it's a really, really fascinating account.
BBC 5 Live Science podcast
The book that might change the world ... Ireland's superb book introduces us to Covid's friendly little cousin, the phage. It feasts on bacteria, was used to treat soldiers at Stalingrad, and might just be the future of medicine.
Not all viruses are out to get us ... This read reveals the good guys - phages. These ultra-helpful but microscopic viruses infect and fight bacteria - this book tells the story of their discovery and use in our health, plus what the future might hold for them.
Woman's Weekly
In the wake of the Covid pandemic, the idea of a virus being beneficial may seem strange, even implausible. But science journalist Tom Ireland is admirably determined to show us just how potent this disease-fighting approach can be and to persuade us of its importance. As engaging as it is expansive, The Good Virus describes the distinctive biology and murky history of bacteriophage (generally shortened to "phage"), a form of life that is remarkably abundant yet obscure enough to have been termed the "dark matter of biology."
Wall Street Journal
The Good Virus is a colorful redemption story for the oft-neglected yet incredibly abundant phage, and its potential for quelling the existential threat of antibiotic resistance ... Ireland, an award-winning science journalist, approaches the subject of his first book with curiosity and passion, delivering a deft narrative that is rich and approachable ... Ireland tells the fascinating story of how phages harvested from German corpses helped the Soviets defeat the Nazis when cholera broke out during the siege of Stalingrad.
New York Times
[An] intriguing history ... incredibly timely
Science magazine
One of the best books of any genre that I've read in 2023, this superbly-written book relies on exquisite story-telling to interweave science and history and politics into an engaging and readable account that will fascinate absolutely everyone. Whether you are looking for something unique to enthrall your book club friends, something educational to enlighten or inspire ... or insights into the complex and subtle ways that politics, history, medicine, science and individual personalities all feedback on and influence each other, you will find it in this remarkable and extraordinarily readable book. Even scientists and medical doctors will find much in this book to intrigue and delight them, and non-specialists will find this eye-opening book is unlike anything they've ever read before.