This is the account of the worldwide scientific quest to decipher the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, trace its source, and make possible the vaccines to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
Breathless is the story of SARS-CoV-2 and its fierce journey through the human population, as seen by the scientists who study its origin, its ever-changing nature, and its capacity to kill us. David Quammen expertly shows how strange new viruses emerge from animals into humans as we disrupt wild ecosystems—and how those viruses adapt to their human hosts, sometimes causing global catastrophe.
He explains why this coronavirus will probably be a “forever virus,” destined to circulate among humans and bedevil us endlessly, in one variant form or another. As scientists labor to catch it, comprehend it, and control it, with their high-tech tools and methods, the virus finds ways of escape.
Based on interviews with nearly one hundred scientists, including leading virologists in China and around the world, Quammen explains that:
Infectious disease experts saw this pandemic coming
Some scientists, for more than two decades, warned that “the next big one” would be caused by a changeable new virus—very possibly a coronavirus—but such warnings were ignored for political or economic reasons
The precise origins of this virus may not be known for years, but some clues are compelling and some suppositions can be dismissed
And much more.
Breathless takes you inside the frantic international effort to understand and control SARS-CoV-2 as if we were peering over the shoulders of the brilliant scientists who led the chase.
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“An authoritative new history of Covid-19 and its predecessors…Quammen] constructs a masterful account of viral evolution culminating in Covid-19…Unsettling global health news brilliantly delivered by an expert.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)