Taking on Superbugs

by on March 5, 2019 · 0 comments

in From the Soul

by Ernie McCray

I turned to page 57 in People Magazine and looking back at me were the smiling faces of friends of mine, Tom Patterson and Steffanie Strathdee. They’re a husband and wife team of AIDs epidemiologists at UCSD who have traveled the world studying and researching and seeking ways to control diseases.

On occasion they have suffered from weird viruses and bugs and the like and weathered the storm and moved on to the next mission.

But the reason they were a story in a national publication is because of what happened to them on a trip to Egypt where they were enjoying themselves, just living the life, visiting the pyramids, sailing down the Nile.

Then Tom suddenly started heaving violently.

And that was the beginning of a story that’s almost hard to believe. Tom, from that point on, was up against a superbug that had no quit, like a boxer that can take a punch, going after him relentlessly, biting in the clinches, hitting below the belt, kicking, scratching, gouging…

But Tom had no quit either. He went down so many times but the referee wouldn’t stop the fight and Steffanie, between rounds, like a good trainer, did all she could to keep him in the fight.

She finally, using her well honed research skills, found what turned out to be the answer to whether he lived or died, a vicious virus called phages which loves to literally feast on bacteria. It’s harvested from sewage so it’s all around. The trick is to find just the right phage and the right blend that might save a life. People in medicine had been ignoring it over time but because of Steffanie’s diligence this rediscovered forgotten treatment now could help in the ongoing global fight against drug-resistant bacteria.

Tom Patterson and Steffanie Strathdee, sitting.

That’s what Tom and Steffanie are all about.

They wrote about the ordeal in a memoir: “The Perfect Predator” and it reads like a Greek Odyssey – with more twists and turns than ought to be allowed.

It’s one of those books that you just can’t put down. You keep wondering, as you read, with all the ups and downs, and machines beeping ominous sounds, how Tom and/or Steffanie can keep their hopes alive after all the setbacks and comas and blood pressure scares and dialysis machines at the ready and starting over and over again trying this and that.

And then a breakthrough comes and all looks well but the battle wasn’t over, making this experience a near death story for the ages, page after page after page. And, in the midst of all the drama, there’s sheer poetic beauty in the form of “interludes” throughout the book where Tom creates images of his dreams, the hallucinations that he had throughout his battle to save his life, giving the story the kind of uneasiness and eeriness a horror tale needs.

But “Perfect Predator” is a happy narrative when all is said and done. I’ve never read anything like it. I can’t wait to see it on the big screen because I know Hollywood isn’t going to let this story go unseen.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: