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Allies and Enemies: How the World Depends on Bacteria

By Anne Maczulak

Published by FT Press

Published Date: Jul 12, 2010


Bacteria are invisible, mysterious, deadly, self-sufficient…and absolutely essential for all life, including yours. No other living things combine their elegant simplicity with their incredibly complex role: Bacteria keep us alive, supply our food, and regulate our biosphere. We can’t live a day without them, and no chemical, antibiotic, or irradiation has ever successfully eradicated them. They’re our partners, like it or not--even though some of them will happily kill us.

Allies and Enemies tells the story of this amazing, intimate partnership. Authored by Anne Maczulak, a microbiologist who’s hunted and worked with an extraordinary array of bacteria, this book offers a powerful new perspective on Earth’s oldest creatures. You’ll discover how bacteria work, how they evolve, their surprising contributions and uses, the roles they’ve played in human history, and why you can't survive without them. No form of life is more important, and in Maczulak’s hands, none is more fascinating.


Outlasted, outnumbered, outsmarted

They’ve been here four billion years--and they even outnumber you in your own body


How bacteria keep you alive…

…and how to keep them from killing you


“Humans Defeat Germs!”

But not for long…


The Invisible Universe

The stunning hidden relationships between bacteria and the rest of nature


Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     viii

About the Author     ix

Introduction     1


Chapter 1  Why the world needs bacteria     7

Tricks in bacterial survival     9

Bacterial communities     13

Under the microscope     16

The size of life     20

The bacteria of the human body     25

The origins of our bacteria    29

One planet     32


Chapter 2  Bacteria in history     35

The ancients    37

The legacy of bacterial pathogens     39

The plague    42

Microbiologists save the day     46

Unheralded heroes of bacteriology     50

On the front    58


Chapter 3  “Humans defeat germs!”(but not for long)     63

What is an antibiotic?     64

Inventing drugs is like making sausage    68

Mutant wars     73

Bacteria share their DNA    77

The opportunists     78


Chapter 4  Bacteria in popular culture     83

Bacteria and art 83   

Bacteria in the performing arts    84

Friends and enemies     89

Do bacteria devour art?     91


Chapter 5  An entire industry from a single cell     99

E. coli     103

The power of cloning     106

A chain reaction     109

Bacteria on the street    112

Anthrax     116

Why we will always need bacteria     117


Chapter 6  The invisible universe     121

Versatility begets diversity     124

Cyanobacteria     128

Bacterial protein factories     131

How to build an ecosystem     135

Feedback and ecosystem maintenance     138

Macrobiology     141


Chapter 7  Climate, bacteria, and a barrel of oil     145

The story of oil     147

Bacteria power     149

How is a cow like a cockroach?     150

Microscopic power plants     154

The waste problem     155

Bacteria on Mars     160

Shaping the planet     162


Epilogue  How microbiologists grow bacteria     165

Serial dilution    165

Counting bacteria     167

Logarithms     168

Anaerobic microbiology     169

Aseptic technique     170


Appendix  Resources for learning more about bacteria     173

Internet resources on bacteria     173

Book resources on bacteria     173

Classic reading on bacteria     174


Bacteria rule references     175

Index     197



Allies and Enemies: How the World Depends on Bacteria

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