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WAO Medical Book Review

Allergy and Asthma in Modern Society: A Scientific Approach
R. Crameri, Editor
2006 Karger
ISBN: 3-8055-8000-2

List Price: $167.25 USD
Available from: Karger Publishing

Dr David Sutherland, FRACP
Nineways Specialist Clinic, Broadmeadow NSW 2292

The prevalence of allergic diseases and bronchial asthma has increased throughout the industrialized world. This book is a collection of papers which seeks to explore the complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors that may have contributed to this increase. Contributions from a total of 40 authors have allowed a very broad coverage, ranging from epidemiology through to modern advances in molecular biology.

This book was compiled as a tribute to Professor Kurt Blaser, Director of the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Immunology Research, Davos, to celebrate his 65th birthday.

No doubt this book was edited for those with a scientific interest in the etiology and management of bronchial asthma and allergic disease. However, this very scope and the large number of invited authors, means that there would be very few amongst the intended audience that would find all of the topics, ranging from epidemiology through to molecular immunology, equally helpful, or indeed, comprehensible.

This volume is divided into six sections: Introduction, The Environment, The Lung Eosinophils and Asthma, The Skin, Molecular Aspects of Allergy and Asthma, and Immunotherapy. Within this format, there are a total of 18 chapters. The Foreward to the volume is a tribute to Professor Blaser, and it concludes with a brief subject index. It is a slim well-presented volume of 224 pages.

Presumably as the result of the celebratory nature of this book, its contents are extremely varied, and perhaps idiosyncratic. The end result has been an in depth assessment of numerous aspects of asthma and allergic disease, rather than a comprehensive coverage. The scientific quality of the contributions is variable also. Those dealing with epidemiology and basic immunology are of a high quality. A chapter on allergic conjunctivitis includes 22 references. Only four of those references are from 2000 or later publications, and the author's name is included in all but one of the references. Some chapters, such as an examination of the affect of high altitude on bronchial asthma, and the role of sensitization to Malassezia sympodialis in atopic eczema, would be unlikely to warrant a whole chapter in another publication.

Overall, this is a book to be used as a resource, rather than to be read from cover to cover. It would be a valuable addition to institutional libraries, and a useful purchase for clinical immunologists and allergists with wide-ranging scientific interests across the whole field of bronchial asthma and allergy. Others will find significant parts of this volume outside of their own areas of interest.