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WAO Medical Book Review

Posted: November 2009

The Immune System, Third Edition
By Peter Parham
2009 Garland Science, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISBN: 9780815344292
$60.00 USD
Available at Garland Science

Dr. Frederick J. Lee, BSc MBBS (Hons I)
Senior Registrar, Clinical Immunology and Allergy
Campbelltown Hospital
Campbelltown, New South Wales

The Immune System, 3rd Edition is an up to date, if very conventional text outlining the structure and function of the human immune system spread out over 16 chapters. It starts with the basic science of immunology before moving onto the clinical implications of immune dysfunction.

Those familiar with Janeway's Immunobiology will notice an immediate resemblance. Indeed, The Immune System is wholly adapted from its Garland Science stable-mate.

The Immune System is designed as an introductory text. There is a focus on first principles and basic concepts.

This text is squarely aimed at the medical student level. Many features present in its contemporaries - such as an introduction to laboratory immunology - have been eschewed in favour of a redundancy of information.

What this text sets out to do, it does quite well. The flow and detail provided in covering the major topics is logical and systematic. Especially pleasing was the (relatively) greater space dedicated to innate immunity, an increasingly important area of study. The prose is clear and sticks to the 'one paragraph-one concept' rule.

Each chapter is concluded by a succinct summary, and is accompanied by a set of questions for self-revision. The provision of an answer section makes this a very useful study tool.

However, it is in the diagrams and illustrations that this book excels. Garland Science have built up a substantial expertise in this area and use this to full effect.

There is no CD-ROM/multimedia resource provided with this book. Rather, this is sold separately.

The challenge in the successful teaching of immunology lies in imparting the concepts without becoming entangled in the detail. The Immune System attempts to do this by paraphrasing information in as many different forms as a conventional textbook can allow. The absence of a bundled multimedia CD-ROM, common with current textbooks, is a disappointing omission however, particularly considering the book's target audience.

In spite of this, The Immune System succeeds in its purpose, and considered alone, is a very competent text for the medical student level. Nevertheless, it resembles its immediate forbear - Janeway's Immunobiology - much too closely to present a genuine alternative to that text's broader appeal.