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By G Spickett. (£19.95.) Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN: 0 19 262721 X.
Immunologists may well wonder whether there is any need for another volume to complement the many excellent texts that already exist on clinical immunology. Gavin Spickett explains why he wrote the book, saying it was for selfish reasons in that the book that he would like to have had was not available when he was a trainee. Therefore the volume has to be assessed from two points of view: first, does it fill a need in the market, and second, does it meet Dr Spickett's own requirements?
In my opinion the answer to both questions is yes. The volume is up to date, comprehensive, and easily referenced. The text includes information on both clinical and laboratoryimmunology and has useful appendices on quality and managerial issues which laboratory trainees will find particularly valuable. Skipping through the volume, I find it is generally very up to date, for example the section on X linked lymphoproliferative disease identifies the cloned gene, information about which was only published in Nature in October 1998.
In a volume such as this, one's attention tends to get drawn to areas of one's own particular interest and not surprisingly not all contributions are similarly up to date. I found it surprising that the section on HIV infection did not mention combination antiretroviral therapy, particularly protease inhibitor therapy, or viral load testing in any detail, and also indicated that there was no value in sequential monitoring of CD4 counts once they had fallen below 0.05—information that is clearly incorrect following the advent of new treatments.
However, such criticisms are minor in what is otherwise an excellent volume, and I applaud Dr Spickett's omission of fundamental immunology which has little or no place in such a book. I think that immunology trainees will find this volume invaluable, as will most of their trainers, but whether the market will be larger than the 150 or so individuals that this group comprises remains to be seen. I certainly cannot see many SHOs in general medicine carrying this book alongside the many other small slim volumes that currently sit in RMO's pockets, but I may be proved wrong on this too.