Winner of the 2011 Science in Society Award


Medicine disregarded it. Antibiotics can’t control it. MRSA—drug-resistant staph—may be the most frightening epidemic since AIDS.

Welcome to my website. Let me tell you about this book.

I’d been an epidemics-and-disasters reporter for years before I heard of MRSA — and once I discovered it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I was following a group of disease detectives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, through an investigation of bizarre skin infections in Los Angeles. The CDC wanted to know where men were picking them up. I wanted to know something more fundamental: How could a minor problem — something that the victims all described as looking like a tiny spider bite — blow up into massive infections that ate away at skin and muscle, put people into the hospital for weeks and drained their health and their bank accounts? Where had it come from? And if it could do that, what else was it capable of?

SUPERBUG: The Fatal Menace of MRSA is my account of what I found when I tried to answer those questions:  a global epidemic, hiding in plain sight. It has been building for five decades. Every year, it kills thousands of people, sickens millions and costs billions of dollars. It affects hospitals and families, schools and prisons, children and seniors, and now, most troublingly, farms, livestock and food.

The story of MRSA — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or drug-resistant staph — is the story of how we took the antibiotic miracle for granted, and how we failed to plan for the creative survival tactics of the bacteria that are mankind’s oldest companions. But it is also a tale with many threads woven through it: How we schedule our work lives. How we choose to feed our families. How we take care of people confined to institutions, whether those institutions are prisons or nursing homes. How much we’re willing to trust in technology. And when something new and different emerges — something extraordinary, something threatening — how, and whether, we recognize it in time.

On this website, you’ll find more information about SUPERBUG, including an excerpt; more about me and my adventures chasing diseases across most of the continents; and much more information about MRSA. Thank you for joining me on this journey.


  • Author photo

    Photo Credit: Scott Streble

  • Praise & Reviews

    “A gripping account of one of the most devastating infectious agents on the planet… A meticulously researched, frightening report on a deadly pathogen.”

    – Kirkus

    “Through powerful storytelling, Maryn McKenna has given voice to people who have suffered at the hands of a fast-changing health threat. Superbug reminds us all that, in an age of global epidemics, our vigilance must be global, too.”

    – Helene D. Gayle, M.D., president and CEO of CARE

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  • Now in Paperback

    Now in Paperback

    Buy the Book

    You can order Superbug at these online locations:

    Barnes & Noble
    Simon & Schuster

  • Fast Facts

    In an average year, MRSA:

    • kills almost 19,000 Americans
    • puts 369,000 in the hospital
    • sends at least 7 million to the doctor
    • costs billions of additional dollars in health care spending