Häusler, Thomas 1968-

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Häusler, Thomas 1968-

PERSONAL:

Born May 5, 1968, in Basel, Switzerland; married; children: a daughter. Education: Attended University of Basel; University of Heidelberg, Ph.D.; attended Berlin Journalism School, 1995-96.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Basel, Switzerland. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Journalist and science writer. Facts magazine, Switzerland, reporter, 1998, chief science editor, 1999-2007; Swiss Public Radio, science reporter; freelance science writer. Also worked as a business consultant with McKinsey and Company.

AWARDS, HONORS:

First recipient of the Eugen Award for journalism, Bedag AG, Berne, Switzerland, 2000; Journalism Award, Pharmacia, 2002; Journalism Award, SV Foundation, 2005; Prix Media, Swiss Academy of Sciences, 2007.

WRITINGS:

Viruses vs. Superbugs: A Solution to the Antibiotics Crisis?, Macmillan (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Phänomen Mensch, Spektrum und Zeit Verlage (Heidelberg, Germany), 2008; and Planet Erde, Spektrum und Zeit Verlage (Heidelberg, Germany), 2008. Contributor to scientific journals and periodicals, including European Journal of Cell Biology, Microbiology Review, Nature, Nature Medicine, Die Zeit, Zeit Magazin Wissen, Sonntagszeitung, Journal of Cell Biology, Journal of Cell Science, and Molecular Biology Parasitol. Also author of the blog Viruses vs. Superbugs. The book Viruses vs. Superbugs has been translated from the original German into English, Japanese, and Korean.

SIDELIGHTS:

Thomas Häusler is a Swiss science writer who has training in biochemistry and has written about a wide range of topics, from medicine to educational issues. Following his first article about phage therapy, the author became enamored of these microscopic creatures and went on to develop an expertise in this area. (Phage therapy is the therapeutic use of lytic bacteriophages, a kind of virus, to treat pathogenic bacterial infections.) In his book Viruses vs. Superbugs: A Solution to the Antibiotics Crisis?, the author takes a look at a possible treatment for a growing number of people who die from superbugs, or bacteria that over the years have grown immune to antibiotics. In the United States alone, approximately 90,000 people die from these superbugs each year, with the worldwide death toll at approximately seventeen million people. "The prospects for the future are even gloomier," wrote William Riedel in a review of Viruses vs. Superbugs on the Epoch Times Web site. "While it took approximately fifty years for ninety-five percent of Staphylococcus aureus strains to become resistant to penicillin, today certain problem bacteria need only a few years to acquire resistance, even to totally new classes of antibiotics."

In his book, Häusler begins by examining a therapy that predates antibiotics, namely bacteriophages. Felix d'Herelle, a French Canadian scientist, was the first to discover the ability of "phages" to stop bacterial disease. In the early twentieth century, he used a broth containing Shigella phages to cure a boy who was deathly ill with dysentery. The author describes how this therapy went on to be used around the world, but eventually was used less and less as antibiotics, specifically penicillin, proved to be extremely effective in treating many bacterial diseases. According to Häusler, phages are viruses that kill harmful bacteria in the human body but do not harm normal bacteria that are important to the body's functioning, nor do they attack the body's cells. Over the years, phage therapy came to be used in only a few Eastern European countries, such as Georgia and Poland. However, as Häusler details, bacteriophages are receiving renewed interest in the West because of powerful new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

As the author's investigation of bacteriophages continues, he describes numerous incurable bacterial diseases facing human beings in modern times and then presents his case that, perhaps, it is time to reinvestigate the use of bacteriophages for treating these diseases. "Häusler conveys this message in a very convincing way," noted Antoine Danchin in EMBO Reports. "Not only should one read Viruses vs. Superbugs, but also we should launch serious research programmes on the subject; the government of Georgia (and several other places in the world) has already started to do so."

In addition to closing his book with a look at the future of phage therapy, the author provides two appendixes. One appendix provides a short list of bacteria, while the other appendix is a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of phage therapy. One of the primary advantages of bacteriophages, according to the author, is their specificity in targeting only harmful bacteria, unlike antibiotics which attack both good and bad bacteria. In addition, phages amazingly reproduce inside the body only in the areas where they are needed and then they are eliminated by the body once the harmful bacterial have been killed.

In a review of Viruses vs. Superbugs on the Popular Science Web site, Brian Clegg noted: "On the whole, despite the very depressing content, this was a good book. Many translations feel lumpy, somehow, like a loaf that hasn't risen properly—this is very readable, and it would be impossible to tell it was a translation if the reader hadn't been told." Kathy Arsenault wrote in the Library Journal: "Häusler's engaging and thought-provoking narrative is recommended."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 2006, Donna Chavez, review of Viruses vs. Superbugs: A Solution to the Antibiotics Crisis?, p. 56.

EMBO Reports, August, 2006, Antoine Danchin, review of Viruses vs. Superbugs, p. 767.

Epoch Times,http://en.epochtimes.com/ (May 6, 2006), William Riedel, review of Viruses vs. Superbugs.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, February 14, 2007, Mikael Skurnik, review of Viruses vs. Superbugs, p. 644.

Library Journal, May 1, 2006, Kathy Arsenault, review of Viruses vs. Superbugs, p. 111.

Nature, October 19, 2006, Sankar Adhya, "The Road to Phage Therapy," review of Viruses vs. Superbugs, p. 754.

ONLINE

Popular Science,http://www.popularscience.co.uk/ (March 21, 2008), Brian Clegg, review of Viruses vs. Superbugs.

Science a GoGo,http://www.scienceagogo.com/ (June 2, 2006), review of Viruses vs. Superbugs.

Thomas Häusler Home Page (English), http://www.thomas-hausler.de/joo_theng/index.php (March 21, 2008).

Viruses vs. Superbugs Web site,http://www.bacteriophagetherapy.info (March 21, 2008).