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Infectious Diseases of the Respiratory Tract. Ellis M, ed. (Pp 605; hardback; £125 (US$200)). UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 0 521 40554 8.
This book aims to be a comprehensive reference resource for all those involved in the diagnosis and care of patients with respiratory infections and, for the most part, it achieves this aim. It is written by some 27 contributors divided between the fields of infectious disease and respiratory medicine. The majority are from the UK with a few from other parts of the world. The editor has written or co-written 13 of the 30 chapters.
It is divided into three sections: diagnosis, host defence and antimicrobials (four chapters); respiratory infections due to major respiratory pathogens (12 chapters); and major respiratory syndromes (14 chapters). This approach provides a good balance. The first section covers the basic principles of respiratory infection and its management, the second will suit those seeking information about the specifics of a particular infection, and the third deals with the practical realities of the clinical setting of, for example, hospital acquired pneumonia or respiratory infection in children. There is a wealth of detail in each chapter which, for the most part, are well laid out. I enjoyed the section on areas for research in the chapter on pneumococcal pneumonia; it would have been nice to have seen a similar discussion in subsequent chapters and the book might have benefited from a template approach to the chapters on specific pathogens.
My criticisms are minor. I would not recommend reading the book anywhere other than in a well lit room since the font used is small (8 pt) and there are a number of annoying typographical errors. The order of the chapters is a little odd with non-tuberculous mycobacteria sandwiched between cytomegalovirus and actinomycosis and tuberculosis three chapters later, and upper respiratory tract infections between cystic fibrosis and infections associated with foreign travel. HIV associated respiratory infections merited more space than the 10 pages of text, especially since there is no separate chapter on pneumocystis.
This is a big book both in size (22.5 cm × 28 cm; weight 3 kg) and content to which anyone with an interest in respiratory infection should have access.—ME
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