John Playfair and Gregory Bancroft
Oxford University Press, £33.99
The essentials of microbiology and immunology have been summarised in a way that is not only engaging and easy to understand, but also unusual, as it covers ground normally expected in at least two books. Although originally written to correspond with the second year BSc course, Immunity to Infection, at University College London, anyone studying or teaching life science at A level and beyond will find it valuable.
The authors have divided the book into three sections: infectious organisms; the immune system and the host-pathogen balance. Each section is rounded off with suggested tutorial questions and a further reading list. The tutorials ask readers to discuss controversial and thought-provoking current topics (for example, "inaccurate news reporting on the spread of malaria"), and at the end there are suggestions for answers to tutorial questions.
This fourth edition has been updated and expanded – there are now two new chapters covering parasitic insects, and much more emphasis on innate immunity. The sections are clearly set out and the text is complemented by an online resource centre. The multiple choice questions in examination style make it a helpful text for both teachers and students.
Infectious disease affects everyone. If you are hoping to understand the mechanism of infections and immunity at an introductory level, then you will find this an excellent reference book: my copy is well thumbed and already sports a forest of bookmarks.