by Robert Austrian, 168 pp, with illus, $25, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985.
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Despite the availability of antibiotics active against Streptococcus pneumoniae, death from pneumococcal infection is still an everyday occurrence. Pneumococcal pneumonia and meningitis remain life-threatening illnesses, even as we approach the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the penicillins. Perhaps no one alive has studied the microbe and its interaction with the human host more intensively than the author of this enjoyable little book. Dr Austrian has been a student of the pneumococcus for much of his professional life. In recent years, realizing the shortcomings of treatment of established pneumococcal disease, he has championed vaccination as a highly effective means of prevention.
In this volume, the author assembles his previously published essays tracing the discovery of the organism in the 1880s and its importance as a cause of pneumonia. He vividly tells of the confusion over whether Klebsiella pneumoniae (Friedländer's bacillus) or the pneumococcus was the cause of most bacterial pneumonia.
Smilack JD. Life With the Pneumococcus: Notes From the Bedside, Laboratory, and Library. JAMA. 1986;255(14):1942. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370140140043