The Good Virus

Tom Ireland


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Hodder & Stoughton
29 June 2023
ISBN: 9781529365245
400 pages

From the publisher

The untold story of the most abundant life form on Earth, bacteriophages, and how they play a crucial role in our lives, our health and the health of our planet.


'The book that might change the world ... This is luxury-class science writing'

'One of the best books of any genre that I've read in 2023, this superbly-written book ... will fascinate absolutely everyone.'

'A delight. To learn more about phages is to discover fascinating details about a hidden world'



Not all viruses are out to get us - in fact, the viruses that do us harm are vastly outnumbered by viruses that can actually save lives.

At every moment, within your body and all around you, trillions of microscopic combatants are fighting an invisible war. Countless times per second, 'good' viruses known as phages are infecting and destroying bacteria. These phages are the most abundant life form on the planet and have an incredible power to heal rather than harm. So why have most of us never even heard of them?

The Good Virus reveals how personalities, power and politics have repeatedly crashed together to hinder our understanding of these weird and wonderful life forms. We explore why Stalin's Soviet Union embraced using phages to fight disease but the rest of the world shunned the idea. We find out why scientists only recently realised phages are central to all ecosystems on Earth. And we meet the often eccentric phage heroes who have shaped the strange history of this field and are unlocking its exciting future.

Faced with the threat of antibiotic resistance, we need phages now more than ever. The Good Virus celebrates what phages could do for us and our planet if they are at last given the attention they deserve.