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Manual of Clinical Microbiology, 8th Edition
  1. J Kerr

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    Murray P R, Baron E J, Jorgensen J H, et al, eds. ($189.95) ASM Press, 2003. 1 55581 255 4.

    The manual of clinical microbiology, published by ASM Press, is a favourite of mine because of its immense detail and vast coverage of the field. The first edition was published in 1970, with subsequent editions following at four to six yearly intervals, and culminating in this 8th edition, which has been expanded into a two volume set with 141 chapters and 2113 pages, written by 230 authors and an international editorial board composed mainly of microbiologists from the USA.

    The manual of clinical microbiology is a colossal resource, which is very well presented and beautifully illustrated. Volume I includes sections on “General issues in clinical microbiology”, “The clinical microbiology laboratory in infection detection, prevention and control”, “Diagnostic technologies in clinical microbiology”, “Bacteriology”, and “Antibacterial agents and susceptibility test methods”. Volume II includes sections on “Virology”, “Antiviral agents and susceptibility test methods”, “Mycology”, “Antifungal agents and susceptibility test methods”, “Parasitology”, and “Antiparasitic agents and susceptibility test methods”.

    The chapter on “Mycobacterium: phenotypic and genotypic identification” is 24 pages long, contains 170 references, and begins with an extensive description of phenotypic identification tests for mycobacteria, with tabulated data for the various cultural and biochemical tests, along with 16 large colour photographs of macroscopic and microscopic colonial morphology. Then there is a short discussion of mycobacterial genomes, including reference to the propensity within the genome for the production of enzymes involved in fatty acid metabolism (as compared with Escherichia coli, for example), and the fact that the genus has an extremely clonal population structure, with genomic variation largely caused by insertion sequence movement rather than by point mutations. This leads into a section on “Genotypic identification of mycobacterial strains”, which begins with an introduction describing the development of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and restriction endonuclease analysis for detection of mycobacteria and the seminal work of Amalio Telenti. This is followed by a discussion of aspects and uses of commercially available identification probes (AccuProbe and INNO-Lipa), genome sequencing, markers for species identification within the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, and direct amplification tests, including the amplified M tuberculosis direct test and Amplicor PCR test. Following this are sections on “Strain typing”, “Immunodiagnostic tests”, “Quality assurance”, and “Interpretation and reporting of results”.

    My only criticism is that occasional chapters are a little light. For example, the chapter on “Antifungal agents” is only 10 pages long and would have benefited from additional consideration of the relative merits of the recently expanded range of available antifungal agents.

    In conclusion, I will continue to use this excellent and detailed resource in its updated form primarily as a reference text because of its comprehensive content, good organisation and therefore ease of access to relevant sections, beautiful presentation, and particularly its academic depth relating to the practice of clinical microbiology.