What do the following have in common: the promise of Botox as the key to everlasting youthful looks; E. coli O157 hamburger disease; a mysterious illness which killed 35 heroin users in 2000; and the assassination by poisoned umbrella-tip of a Bulgarian dissident in the 1970s? The answer is that all of these are caused by toxins, the powerful biological poisons released by bacteria and some plants. In Toxin, Alistair Lax reveals the panoply of ways in which bacterial toxins overcome the defences of our cells. He explains how they work, how they are so successful in causing major diseases, the terrible human impact they have had, and how apparently 'new' diseases arise from them. He also discusses how we can combat toxins, and how we can harness their actions for beneficial purposes. Enlivened by the very human story of the persistence, rivalries, and insights from which modern microbiology grew, Toxin is the first widely accessible account of this exciting and important topic.
Alistair Lax is Professor of Cellular Microbiology at King's 3ollege London. His research has focused on the interaction of bacterial toxins with the cells in the host's body. He has published numerous papers in international journals. This is his first book for the wider public.
1. Toxins are everywhere: how toxins affected history ; 2. The germ of an idea: a gradual acceleration up to the mid 1850s ; 3. The Golden Age of Microbiology: Pasteur, Koch and the birth of the toxin concept ; 4. The anatomy of diphtheria: taming the deadly scourge of childhood ; 5. Understanding: all toxins fit into three basic mechanisms ; 6. Why are plague and typhoid so deadly? A further layer of cleverness ; 7. Deviant biology: weapons, espionage and man's innate inhumanity ; 8. A more optimistic outcome: from poison to cure and the cell biologist's toolkit ; 9. Where is toxinology going now? Is there anything new out there? ; Further reading ; References ; Index