Superbug 2.0: An introduction

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.


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Maryn McKenna, and her blog Superbug 2.0 has been downloaded (uploaded?) into the Borg. As she says: 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?)…
On the heels of the recruitment of Deborah Blum to ScienceBlogs, I am happy to welcome journalist Maryn McKenna to our neck of the ether. Her inaugural post can be read here. McKenna's blog is called Superbug, reflecting the title of her most recent book, SUPERBUG: The Fatal Menace of MRSA, and her…
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For several years, health professionals have been concerned about the rise in infections from methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA - a bacteria that's resistant to several of the antibiotics generally used to treat staph infections. CDC estimates that in 2005, there were more than…

Maryn: Sb is lucky to have you. I hope you enjoy it here as much as I did. The readership is great: funny, passionate, smart and sometimes a little crazy. That's a pretty good mix. Have fun and welcome.

Maryn, I am so totally stoked to have you here. Infectious diseases often get short shrift or, alternatively, sensationalized coverage, so I am ecstatic to have your top-notch writing here at SB.

But - no offense - I'm going to go wash my hands after posting this comment.


Welcome Maryn!

shared decision making...very interesting indeed. looking forward to reading.

Cooolll. I'll be reading. :-)

Nice to see you've been cat herded into SB ;-) Glad to see a subject matter very much up my own (research) street joining the blogs.

Beating Back the Devil is the book I read whenever I'm losing hope of breaking into the public health field- it's my inspiration. And I too find emerging infectious diseases exciting... and then some.

Look forward to reading!

Corvus, that is the sweetest thing anyone has said to me in a long time. Thank you!

And, because I didn't say earlier â which I should have but I was just too stunned by the comment flow â huge thanks to all of you for the welcome. I'm really touched.