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Zoonoses: infectious diseases transmissible from animals to humans
  1. K Kerr

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    Edited by H Krauss, A Weber, M Appel, et al. Published by ASM Press, 2003, $79.95 (paperback). ISBN 1 55581 236 8

    We are constantly being bombarded with advice on how to ensure that we lead a healthy life—eat less, drink less, and take more exercise. Reading this book adds to this litany in that we are exhorted not to crack chestnuts with our teeth, to avoid eating ants and, of course, not to apply raw chopped frogs to our wounds if fasciolopsiasis, dicroceliasis, and sparganosis, respectively, are to be avoided.

    Despite their acknowledged importance, zoonoses are often tucked away at the end of standard infectious disease textbooks almost as an afterthought, and there have been few texts devoted exclusively to this group of infections. This book, the English language version of the third edition of a book originally published in Germany, is intended to redress the balance. The quality of translation is very good and there are only occasional reminders as to the book’s provenance—for example, we are told that the main means of transmission of many zoonotic pathogens is through “smear infection”.

    The authors take an essentially organism based approach to the topic, with descriptions of the epidemiology, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, management, and prevention of each infection. Given the sheer number of zoonoses, this means that space that could have been devoted to a more in depth discussion of the major zoonoses is taken up with sections dealing with spectacularly rare conditions, such as lagochilascariasis. Furthermore, several conditions, which have questionable zoonotic origin—such pneumocystosis—are considered, sometimes at length.

    Although the book is crammed with painstakingly collected information, it is still not clear to me how the book is intended to be used. Although the A–Z compendium of common and not so common infections is useful, many potential readers would have appreciated at least one chapter that adopted a more syndromic approach to the patient with unexplained fever. Moreover, a more in depth discussion of the problems in treating zoonoses arising from antimicrobial resistance would have been beneficial. Similarly, clinicians and jobbing diagnostic laboratary workers are unlikely to find page after page of polymerase chain reaction primers for the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction of oropouche, colti, and other viruses of much value. These are more the province of the research or reference laboratories, which will turn to the primary literature for this information. Those who like textbooks to take a view of the subject in the round might also have appreciated a section dealing with the epidemiology of zoonoses and the profound influence that the climactic, geopolitical, and socioeconomic changes of the last 50 years has had, and will continue to have, on our risks of acquiring these infections.

    Nevertheless, this book would be a worthwhile purchase for any departmental library and would be a useful reference for pathologists and clinicians alike. Chopped frog vendors, however, may beg to differ.