So, hi, Scienceblogs. I’m thrilled to be joining the conversation here.
By way of introduction, I’m Maryn McKenna, journalist and author and sole proprietor of Superbug, which has been running for 3+ years at Blogger but moves over here today, thanks to an invitation from the Sb staff and some extremely kind support from friends and colleagues who are already here.
Superbug began as online notes and digital whiteboard for my new book, SUPERBUG: The Fatal Menace of MRSA (Free Press/Simon & Schuster), which is a narrative investigation of the international epidemic of drug-resistant staph. So in its first incarnation, the blog was an examination of the emergence of the three overlapping epidemics of MRSA, in hospitals, in the community and in food animals. But it was also an inquiry into the cultural forces that increase the prevalence of resistant organisms, from poor hygiene in overcrowded prisons to antibiotic overuse on overcrowded industrial-scale farms.
The book’s been out for two months now (if you’re curious, here’s the official site, an excerpt, and samples of critical and press reaction). That feels like enough time that I can widen the scope a bit.
A bit more about me: I’ve been a magazine writer since 2006 and was a newspaper science/medical reporter before that. Chief claim to fame: For 10 years, at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I was the only US journalist assigned to fulltime coverage of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which meant that I got on a lot of last-minute flights to follow that agency’s SWAT teams around the world. (Some of those stories are in my first book, BEATING BACK THE DEVIL: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service.) Being CDC stenographer also meant that I wrote about the very early signals of outbreaks that later became huge public health concerns: the first case of avian flu jumping to a human in 1997, the first diagnosis of deliberately caused anthrax in 2001, the first cluster of SARS in 2003. Before Atlanta, I was a public health investigative reporter in Boston, where I was half of a team that uncovered the first cases of what’s now known as Gulf War Syndrome; and in Cincinnati, where I dug into the hidden history of a closed nuclear weapons plant, and found enough carelessness and contamination to help local residents win a nuclear-harm suit against the US government.
What all that adds up to, and what you can expect to see on Superbug: antimicrobial resistance of course, and all the things we do to make it worse. (Anyone want to talk about chain drugstores giving antibiotics away for free?) But also: infectious diseases, especially emerging ones; zoonotic diseases, and the bacterial and viral traffic between us and the species we share space with; food policy and food safety; and public health, and especially public health policy and politics. Most of all, expect Superbug to be an inquisitive random walk through the abundant, ironic, unintended consequences of our shared decision-making. To me, that’s where the most interesting stories always lie.