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WAO Medical Book Review

Problem-based immunology
Reginald M. Gorczynski and Jacqueline Stanley
ISBN: 1-4160-2416-6

List price: $34.95 USD
Available from: Elsevier

Dr Jane Peake MBBS, FRACP, DTM&H
University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia

In few areas of medicine has the scientific understanding of underlying pathological processes expanded as quickly as it has in the area of immunology. This makes it difficult for medical students and clinicians to keep abreast of these findings and in particular to grasp their clinical relevance. This textbook is designed to provide "up-to-date" understanding in immunology, both the basic concepts and clinical applications. Case scenarios are used to provide relevance and to increase interest and illustrate the broad spectrum of clinical immunology disorders.

The purpose of this textbook is to cover the basic science of immunology and using the problem-based approach provides the bridge with clinical medicine. Each section presents clinical case studies to demonstrate the practical relevance of immunology knowledge in diagnosing a variety of complex clinical disorders.

This book is designed for medical students and postgraduate students wanting to learn more about clinical immunology. It may also be of interest to those teaching these students as it provides problems and suggested group discussion topics, which can be used to stimulate teaching.

There is a section on each major area in the field of clinical immunology – immunodeficiency, hypersensitivity, autoimmunity, tumour immunology, transplantation and immunisation. In each section there is an overview of the main concepts and then a number of relevant case studies. Each of the case studies starts with a clinical vignette and then poses a number of questions for group discussion. The case is then further explored with analysis of the family history, laboratory investigations, differential diagnosis and, as relevant, there may be further explanation regarding investigations, laboratory result interpretation, therapy or underlying disease process and aetiology. An interesting and unique addition to this book is the final section on psychoneuroimmunobiology, which explores the concept that the immune system is influenced by non-immunological physiological systems and the interplay between “mind” and “body”.

Problem-based immunology provides an excellent basic textbook for medical students and postgraduate students in clinical immunology. Students often have difficulty understanding both the complex science that underpins immunology and the clinical relevance of what they are learning. The design of the book stimulates the student into thinking about the scientific concepts and the cases provide clinical relevance and interest. If used as designed, by starting with the initial discussion questions before proceeding with the case, the student will be engaged in a way that they will want to continue to read more. In the developed world allergic disease is becoming an increasing problem with rapid increases in the incidence of food allergy, allergic rhinitis and eczema. The hypersensitivity section would have benefited from having cases that explored these important topics. A further reading section at the end of each case or section would have provided resources for students whose interest has been piqued and was unfortunately only available for the psychoneuroimmunobiology section.