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WAO Medical Book Review

Posted: March 2009

Handbook of Human Immunology, Second Edition
2008 CRC Press
Editors: Maurice R.G. O'Gorman (The Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, USA) and Albert D. Donnenberg (Hillman Cancer Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
ISBN: 9780849319846

Available from: CRC Press
$189.95 (US)

Salvador Gala, MB BS PhD

Handbook of Human Immunology provides a useful, up-to-date collection of detailed reviews on specific subjects relating to basic science and clinical laboratory immunology. Individual chapters read as a "state of the art" overview of a particular topic. Altogether, there are 20 chapters dealing with select topics in immunology.

This is a multi-authored text. Most contributors have affiliations to university pathology departments, or else, to university medical departments. Hence, there is a palpable clinical flavor to the subject matter, but predominantly from the point of view of laboratory diagnosis of immunological disease. Even within chapters dealing with basic science, there is often mention of relevance to immunological disease (e.g., clinical applications of cytokine detection or therapy following a review of cytokine function).

Handbook of Human Immunology provides the advanced reader with a detailed overview of specific topics in immunological science and clinical diagnosis. The focus is on basic science and laboratory diagnosis.

Due to the detailed in-depth information provided, this is a book for the advanced level trainee or specialist clinical immunologist wishing to learn about recent advances in basic immunology and laboratory diagnosis. However, readers will still need to consult other sources for specific laboratory protocols. A considerable degree of understanding of basic and clinical immunology is assumed. Basic level trainees and non-specialists will likely struggle with this text.

Not all subjects within the discipline of immunology are equally dealt with, and so the potential reader would do well to consult the table of contents carefully before ordering this volume.

Although there is an adequate index to guide the reader, the text is more a collection of 20 high quality but individual monographs rather than a systemic treatment of the discipline of immunology. References within individual chapters are plentiful and mostly from prior to 2006. One chapter worthy of special praise is that on the Statistics of Immunology Testing, where statistical analysis is considered from an immunological perspective and examples are provided using immunological assays. On the other hand, the editors might wish to reconsider the usefulness of a 49 page chapter on human leukocyte differentiation antigens in future editions: this "current" list of CD molecules will be quickly outdated, and readers could have accessed the information elsewhere. All tables, diagrams and photomicrographs are provided in black and white - whilst this is not a grave impediment to the text, its readability could have been improved by the use of color illustrations (particularly considering this book's cost).

Handbook of Human Immunology is not an introductory textbook on human immunology. As far as basic science is concerned, the focus is generally on recent advances rather than a systematic description of the immune system. Chapters include those on cellular immunology, immunoglobulins, complement and cytokines. There is a special emphasis on flow cytometry, with chapters relating to its utility in hematological malignancy, immunodeficiency and immunosuppression. Also included are chapters on serological and molecular diagnosis of infectious disease, as well as transplantation medicine. Given its importance in routine clinical practice, diagnosis of autoimmune disease appears relatively under-represented in this book. Allergic disease does not feature at all in this volume.

Handbook of Human Immunology will be most useful to clinical immunologists and advanced level trainees with a specific interest in laboratory diagnosis. Individual chapters will provide a detailed and up-to-date review of a specific area to specialist physicians already familiar with the subject matter being discussed. Non-specialist physicians or more junior trainees in clinical immunology will likely find the information to be overly detailed and difficult to follow. As a supplement to other standard texts and journals, Handbook of Human Immunology will be of interest to experienced immunologists wishing to extend their understanding of the discipline.