Book reviews from the SGM Quarterly and Microbiology Today


SGM book reviews - Current issue

Parasites and Infectious Disease Discovery by Serendipity, and Otherwise

G.W. Esch

Cambridge University Press (2007)

The 15 chapters or essays in this book vary greatly. Some tell stories, for example how the cause of malaria was discovered, and how a toad and its fluke parasite, water-loving creatures, survive in a desert. Other chapters discuss important issues. Why is vaccination highly effective for some diseases but has no prospect of success with others? Did the elimination of a highly debilitating disease (hookworm) from an area lead to an increase in prosperity, or did improvement in living conditions eradicate the disease? How can medication be delivered to an impoverished and ill-educated population?

Many of the essays are interesting and lucidly written. The book is, however, a very unusual one and has shortcomings. The essay section of about 240 pages comes after a prologue of over 100 pages describing meetings with the 18 experts consulted and their life stories. I feel that cogent comments of the experts in these pages should have joined their comments in the essays, and that brief biographical details would have been better at the end of the book. For seven essays, which concern diseases caused by animal parasites such as flukes and hookworms, a microbiologist needs to have a textbook of parasitology or invertebrate zoology handy. A glossary and a few life cycle diagrams would have made these chapters easier for microbiologists. The writing is informal and colloquial, which is not always helpful - in one chapter I was more than usually surprised by the prescience of Darwin, and had to remind myself that 'Darwin' is the given name of one of the experts - nor did I need frequent information along the lines of 'The taxi fare to Chelsea was £10'. The index of the book is strangely constructed and not very helpful. Amazingly, considering that the author is the editor of a scientific journal and the distinguished publishers have over 400 years experience of book production, typos are numerous. I suspect from a text comment that the typos and the occasional less well-organized chapter are the result of an excessive rigidity with respect to deadlines, and a final rush to complete the book.

In spite of the above criticisms the book is valuable for some well-told stories and the thoughts of the author and his experts. It is appropriate for purchase by libraries of universities and institutes with microbiology departments; this would also permit individual microbiologists to peruse and consider whether they wanted a copy.

Finally, what about the 'serendipity' featuring in the subtitle? Having started by considering it to be a major factor in discovery, in the end the author settles for 5-10 %, with well-planned investigations being the major route to discovery. A conclusion perhaps not too far from the aphorism on genius attributed to Thomas Carlyle - 1 % inspiration and 99 % perspiration.

Michael Carlile, Bridgwater

£23.99US$45.00pp. 355ISBN 0-52167-539-0

Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity

V. Smith

Oxford University Press (2007)

Clean tells the story of hygiene from ancient Egypt to the modern world. Virginia Smith documents the changes in practices and investigates the motivations behind these changes. It is so easy to see hygiene and cleanliness as a necessity, especially with the rise in antibiotic-resistant infections like MRSA, but this has not always been the case. Prior to the public acceptance of germ theory, hygiene and cleanliness had several roles. In ancient Egypt the focus was on cosmetics and beauty, and in Rome, the new Galenic medicine advocated cleanliness to avoid illness. Religious asceticism followed, compelling people to remain clothed and avoid washing to remain morally pure. Hygiene was not simply influenced by disease, but also by religion, fashion, politics and technical advances. The book is a comprehensive study of the history of hygiene. It is written beautifully and is not only accessible but also utterly fascinating. The notes are informative and useful but do not detract from the story. This is a must read for anybody interested in history and especially for those who have an interest in public health.

Lucy Goodchild, SGM

£16.99pp. 457ISBN 978-0-19-929779-5

Manual of Clinical Microbiology, 9th edn, vols 1 and 2

P.R. Murray, E.J. Baron, J.H. Jorgensen, M.L. Landry & M.A. Pfaller, Eds

American Society for Microbiology (2007)

While the size and weight of each of these two volumes are a strong disincentive to carrying them around in one's briefcase, they assuredly deserve a place on the shelf of every medical microbiology department. The first volume deals broadly with bacteriology and related subjects such as antibiotic susceptibility testing, while volume 2 covers virology, fungi and parasites. Despite the use of the word 'clinical' in the book's title, a number of chapters are more 'academic', covering detailed molecular and biochemical information on the mechanisms of resistance to antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitic agents. In addition to detailed information on a comprehensive range of pathogens, the initial chapters deal with the complementary and important issues of laboratory management, design, information technology and storage of micro-organisms. Other general chapters of value to those working at the bench cover disinfection and sterilization, and the control of laboratory-acquired infections. Furthermore, in the current climate where there is much media coverage and political interest in the subject of healthcare-associated infections, it is reassuring to note that there are two short but well-written and focussed chapters on infection control epidemiology and laboratory procedures for the epidemiological analysis of micro-organisms.

The format of the book, which comprises dense text in a fairly small font, will not attract the casual reader. Indeed, I would not feel generally inclined to recommend it to first-year microbiology students or those just starting in the field of clinical microbiology as there are other more accessible tomes available for the beginner, although one notable exception to this was the short chapter on the taxonomy and classification of viruses. Nonetheless, it is the very intensity of the information provided that gives this book its strength. For those seeking a ready source of information on matters relating to the practice of clinical microbiology, this surely should be one of the first ports of call. Despite the density of the text, the judicious use of headings, subheadings and tables makes the retrieval of specific information fairly straight forward. This is also helped by an extensive and detailed subject index. A number of the chapters also contain helpful diagrams, with several in colour. The latter are particularly valuable when showing features such as the appearance of bacterial colonies growing on agar plates, Gram-stained films or pathological material. Although it was not available for me to review, a CD-ROM with close to 500 illustrations from the book is also available for purchase through the publisher.

Despite the fact that there were over 250 contributors to these two volumes, the text appears remarkably cohesive. Indeed, in the Preface the Editor-in-Chief candidly reveals that he and the other Editors had their work cut out trying to achieve consistency. However, they are to be congratulated on achieving their objective. Interestingly, approximately 30 % of the authors for this edition were from outside the USA. This is a welcome development in terms of moving away from a purely American perspective of the field and is likely to broaden the potential readership of the book.

In summary, this book is highly recommended to those involved in the field of clinical microbiology, be their specialty bacteriology, virology, mycology or parasitology. The price makes it unlikely that many individuals will purchase personal copies, although given the amount of information contained in each volume, there is a case to be made that the book is good value for money. With this in mind I would strongly recommend that microbiology departments purchase copies for their staff.

Alan Johnson, Health Protection Agency

US$209.95pp. 2,488ISBN 1-55581-371-0

Genomics and Evolution of Microbial Eukaryotes

L.A. Katz & D. Bhattacharya, Eds

Oxford University Press (2006)

I suspect that few microbiologists have heard of apicomplexans, suctorians, athalamids or gluacophytes, even though we will have seen representatives of their darting forms while observing life in a droplet of pond water. Eukaryotic microbes must feature among the most bizarre and fascinating life forms. Spanning 1.5 million years of life's evolution and including the major eukaryotic lineages, they are truly spectacular: their form, function, physiology and genomics are as one might expect of organisms from another planet.

Edited books rarely work well, but this is a delightful exception. The chapters are well written, informative (beautifully illustrated with micrographs) and follow a logical progression. The book begins with an overview of the diversity of microbial eukaryotes and then moves to consider their extraordinary genetics, and concludes with chapters that succinctly summarize insights from whole-genome sequencing projects. En route, the work is put firmly within an evolutionary framework.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It reminds us that there is much left to be unravelled. Had I read this book as an undergraduate I would have planned my research career differently.

Paul Rainey, New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study

£55.00pp. 256ISBN 0-19856-974-9

Listeria, Listeriosis, and Food Safety, 3rd edn

E. T. Ryser & E. H. Marth, Eds

CRC Press / Thomson Publishing (2007)

Listeria, Listeriosis and Food Safety is an authoritative and fascinating description of the current literature relating to the genus Listeria, and especially to the species Listeria monocytogenes. The book comprises 19 chapters describing different aspects of the history, physiology, taxonomy, molecular biology, pathology and epidemiology of the listeriae, written by some of the foremost authorities in the field. The level of detail in this book is excellent and the chapters are, on the whole, very readable. The inclusion of a chapter discussing future perspectives and research needs was particularly interesting.

Many of the authors have been drawn from within the USA and this can give the book a slight US myopia, although the authors generally make strenuous efforts to avoid this. Nevertheless, there are occasional oversights brought about by this US-centricity. For example, in one chapter it is reported that within the EEC L. monocytogenes limits have only been agreed for dairy products. However, in 1999 it was recommended that there should be no more than 100 c.f.u. per gram of foodstuff, with tighter limits for prepacked foods, and this was adopted in 2005; the EEC was also superceded by the EU in 1993. Similarly, in another chapter it is noted that the incidence of listeriosis in the UK has stabilized at a level of around 100-125 cases over the past 5 years, after peaking in 1988. After remaining relatively stable for a decade, the number of cases actually increased to around 230 between 2000 and 2004 and now appears to be declining gently. These are, however, relatively minor oversights in an otherwise very detailed, interesting and valuable resource.

This is a weighty textbook, both literally and metaphorically, and the level of detail that it provides is likely to be of great interest to academics and researchers working with Listeria species, making it a useful addition to their bookshelves. In contrast, although it would be a helpful reference book for an undergraduate to dip into whilst researching an essay or presentation, it is probably too detailed and expensive to be a 'must-have', rather than a 'must-borrow', making it more suited to institutional than individual purchase for these purposes.

Tim Aldsworth, University of Hertfordshire

£109.00US$189.95pp. 896ISBN 0-82475-750-2

Enzyme-mediated Resistance to Antibiotics Mechanisms, Dissemination, and Prospects for Inhibition

R.A. Bonomo & M. Tolmasky, Eds

American Society for Microbiology (2007)

As someone with a particular interest in antibiotic resistance, it was a joy to review this book. The authoritative text is superbly complemented by high quality diagrams, several of which are in colour. There is also judicious use of tables to provide a high degree of detailed information in a format that is easy on the eye. While the title of the book suggests that the content might be highly specialized, the subject matter covered is in reality quite diverse, including not only the biochemical and genetic basis of enzyme-mediated resistance mechanisms, but also topics such as the biological cost of resistance, and how an understanding of resistance mechanisms is applied in industry for drug development. I would certainly recommend this book to librarians in academic microbiology departments, and while it is not cheap, researchers in the field of antibiotic resistance should certainly give serious consideration to purchasing a personal copy.

Alan Johnson, Health Protection Agency

US$129.95pp. 357ISBN 1-55581-303-1

Molecular Genetics of Bacteria, 3rd edn

L. Snyder & W. Champness

American Society for Microbiology (2007)

You are just starting to think about revamping your lectures when the updated text book comes along. Perfect timing. This is exactly what happened to me with the new edition of Molecular Genetics of Bacteria. This wonderful text book has been substantially rewritten since the last edition published in 2003. Its content is perfect for advanced undergraduate courses in bacterial genetics and as a starting block for postgraduate bacteriologists. It covers genome duplication, gene expression and regulation, mechanisms and consequences of gene transfer, all types of recombination and DNA repair, plasmids and phage biology. The detail is sufficient so that courses can be designed to use this book as a basic reference and add in a few primary papers. The style flows easily throughout the book and an opportunity is never missed to explain the significance of the information. The major changes in the 3rd edition include recent discoveries in bacterial cell biology with the final chapter devoted to compartmentalization. There is more detail on mechanisms of fundamental processes, particularly those that are common throughout biology, but the practical aspects of how bacteria can be manipulated as a research tool are also emphasized. The inclusion of more information about Gram-positives has led to a much more balanced content. In short, this is a timely update to an outstanding text.

Maggie Smith, University of Aberdeen

US$109.95pp. 754ISBN 1-55581-399-4

Modern Soil Microbiology, 2nd edn

J. D. van Elsas, J.K. Jansson & J.T. Trevors

CRC Press / Thomson Publishing (2006)

Soil microbiology has advanced tremendously in the 9 year period between this book's publication and the previous edition. The new edition accurately reflects these advances. Eight of the 22 chapters mirror those from 1997, but the rest cover substantially new topics. The chapters on plant-associated bacteria and statistics are now much more comprehensive. New chapters covering functional characterization, fingerprinting, detecting active bacteria and fluorescent in situ hybridization provide excellent detail. However, I was disappointed by the chapters on community composition of prokaryotes and metgenomics, which lacked substantive results.

Overall this edited book focuses on methods rather than results. Although designed as a basic textbook for soil microbiology courses, I feel it fails to achieve this aim as it lacks the structure of an authored work. I believe it will be purchased by institutions rather than individuals. However, with conclusions for most chapters and 22 boxes highlighting import issues it will be useful to advanced students and researchers.

John Fry, Cardiff University

£34.99pp. 646ISBN 0-82472-749-9

Adenovirus Methods and Protocols Adenoviruses, Ad Vectors, Quantitation, and Animal Models, 2nd edn, Vol. 1

Adenovirus Methods and Protocols Ad Proteins, RNA, Lifecycle, Host Interactions, and Phylogenetics, 2nd edn, Vol. 2

W.S.M. Wold & A.E. Tollefson, Eds

Humana Press (2007)

The first edition of this book appeared in 1999. Eight years later, with adenovirus research continuing to be driven by interest in gene delivery and by its intrinsic virology, the demand for the knowledge base in adenovirus techniques to be developed and transferred to new audiences continues. This second edition maintains the style of its predecessor, with self-contained chapters each written by adenovirus researchers who have developed the methods themselves, but is expanded from 25 to 41 chapters, now in two volumes. About half of the first edition chapters are rolled over with minor revisions; the remainder of the content is re-authored or brand new. Each chapter has an introduction, covering some of the basic adenovirus context that has driven the author's interest in the methodology, followed by a full list of materials needed to carry out the methods, and finally step-by-step descriptions of the methods themselves. These are amplified by a series of very helpful text notes that impart valuable nuggets of lab wisdom - often the difference between making a recipe-book method work and not.

Although the methods are presented in the context of adenovirus research, inevitably some are quite generic; e.g. flow cytometry, ChIP assays and protein:protein interaction studies are much the same when applied to adenovirus molecules as in any other context. But all of the chapters have a unique adenovirus slant to them and many deal with fundamentals of adenovirus systems, such as growth and genetics, that you would not find in any general methods text. Although the contents of the two volumes are wide-ranging, it does not look as if the editors set out with a list of topics that had to be covered. Rather, they appear to have approached adenovirus labs for contributions on their areas of expertise and worked with what they received. Organizing the contents coherently must have been difficult and, beyond volume 1 being more biological and volume 2 more molecular in emphasis, deciding which of the two volumes is more relevant for a lab purchase is going to be hard. It's really a question of consulting the contents pages of both and dipping in. And in truth, that's what any methods text is about. No one will need all of the methods described here, but everyone from novice to experienced adenovirus researcher, could learn something from these books.

Keith Leppard, University of Warwick

Vol. 1US$99.50pp. 241ISBN 1-58829-598-9
Vol. 2US$145.00pp. 362ISBN 1-58829-901-7

Bacterial Pathogenomics

M.J. Pallen, K.E. Nelson & G.M. Preston, Eds

American Society for Microbiology (2007)

Bacterial Pathogenomics serves as an excellent overview of the history, process, gains and bottlenecks of genome sequencing. Section authors give a well-balanced account of their subject, detailing what was known prior to the genome being available and subsequent gains post-genome. In some of the chapters, such as E. coli, there are also useful discussions detailing available genome resources.

Single-genus chapters take a detailed look at a wide spectrum of human and/or animal pathogens, including Escherichia, Mycobacteria, Neisseria, Staphylococcus, Campylobacter, Listeria as well as the phytopathogen Erwinia, several spirochaetes and the 'insect-bioconverting' Photorhabidus. Potted highlights from this book include linking genome properties to phylogeny in E. coli, tracing the geographic origin of species in mycobacteria, the impact of DNA transfer in the enterics, Neisseria and Staphylococcus, and taking us back to the biochemistry of virtually all of the organisms featured.

This detailed look at individual genera is augmented by chapters dedicated to broader themes, including genomic markers of intracellular bacteria, with accounts of reductive-evolution, the impact of phage, modelling virulence and bioterrorism. This serves as a very useful reference for all echelons; students and researchers alike.

Nick Thomson, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

US$139.95pp. 472ISBN 1-55581-451-9

Exploitation of Fungi

G.D. Robson, P. van West & G.M. Gadd, Eds

Cambridge University Press (2007)

The rapid development of 'omics' technologies has also had a major impact on the eukaryotic fungal kingdom. The availability of the whole-genome sequences for a number of yeasts and filamentous fungi has meant that scientific progress and exploitation of these diverse groups of organisms has increased significantly. This book examines some of the recent advances in relation to the use of these new tools to exploit fungi effectively for a wide range of applications. The underlying approach is that with a better understanding of the function of genes they can be exploited for secretion of proteins commercially, discovery of new bioactive molecules, development of innovative crop protection strategies and for enhancing the breakdown of xenobiotic compounds in different ecosystems.

The book is divided into five different sections dealing with the topics: Comparative and functional fungal genomics; Bioactive molecules; Protein folding and secretion; Fungal bioremidation; and Fungal biocontrol of pests.

The first section has a short review of genome and proteome analyses of industrially important fungi. In my view this is an important area, and this summary does not really do justice to the subject and could have been made much more informative. In contrast, the 'Rice blast story' by Dean et al. is an excellent review of the genome-sequencing aspects to understanding the function of the key genes involved in the life cycle of this economically important and devastating disease of rice. Section II is a much stronger section with Chapters dealing with polyketide synthesis, fungal metabolites as agricultural compounds and about fungal secondary metabolism in the important Aspergillus group. This section clearly shows that while many companies have moved to using combinatorial libraries for trying to obtain new pharma compounds, the potential for success in natural products from micro-organisms, in this case fungi, may still be the best route for the discovery of the elusive new antibiotic compounds. Of course, genetic modification of existing fungi has been very beneficial for manipulation of growth parameters to enable overproduction of heterologous proteins and other useful secreted compounds. This is well described in section III. Section IV deals with remediation approaches where yeasts and filamentous fungi have been used for heavy metal uptake, the sensitivity/tolerance of fungal bioluminescence as environmental biosensors, the use of white rot fungi and their battery of lignases and laccases for enhancing breakdown of pesticides and the exciting area of metal and mineral transformations by fungi. This is a very informative section and I found the biosensors and metal transformation systems particularly fascinating. The final section (V) deals with use of alternatives to chemicals for pest control. There has been much research in development of biocontrol agents for both pest and disease control. This section suggests that major advances have been made in development of such natural control systems for weed control and to some extent for pest and plant disease control. The Chapters by Lorito's group on Trichoderma species and plant disease control and the multimodal fungal invertebrate pathogen approaches (Lopez-Llorca & Jansson) were particularly stimulating to me. However, in Europe, while the registration procedures remain the same as for chemical control compounds, the potential for commercialization is more limited than that in North America and elsewhere where fast track systems have facilitated better exploitation of biocontrol agents, especially fungi.

Overall, this book is a very good volume which brings together most of the relevant information together with information on exploitation routes being used today for fungal systems. However, a few chapters are relatively short and this is a pity as one is left wanting more information. I think that this book will be particularly useful to undergraduate and postgraduate students to obtain necessary knowledge and an entry into subjects which they may like to follow up in more depth.

Naresh Magan, Cranfield University

£80.00pp. 345ISBN 0-52185-935-2

Gene Cloning and Manipulation

C. Howe

Cambridge University Press (2007)

Gene cloning has become widely accessible due to the availability of highly developed commercial tools. Sadly, knowledge of the scientific basis of commonly used techniques is often inadequate. This book is a comprehensive presentation of gene cloning and genetic manipulations which emphasizes the scientific principles involved. Enzymes, separation and detection methods are clearly explained alongside elements of bacterial and phage genetics needed to understand the use of vectors and their hosts. This last aspect is particularly important as it fills noticeable gaps in current academic teaching. Chapters start with simple concepts and introduction of terminology and progress towards sophisticated applications and examples of creative use of basic principles. The chapter on model organisms, other than E. coli, is a good starting point of the topics and contains valuable information about eukaryotic vectors, promoters, tags and expression systems. This book talks in a simple language that is easy to understand. I shall use it for my teaching.

Irina Tsaneva, University College London

£25.99US$48.00pp. 266ISBN 0-52152-105-5

Virology Principles and Applications

J. Carter & V. Saunders

John Wiley & Sons Limited (2007)

This book covers a broad range of topics, describing the fundamental properties of viruses and a host of related topics such as the methods for their study and the cellular processes that are needed to support their propagation. The text has been written with clarity and in an extremely accessible manner. In keeping with the notion that a picture can speak a thousand words, there are a multitude of illustrations to convey the authors' messages. A particularly nice touch is the common colour coding for the components of viruses that has been employed throughout. The book's primary audience is undergraduates as a source of information on the subject of virology, but its breadth and accessibility would make it a handy reference text on the shelves of those who are more qualified and experienced. Overall, I would highly recommend the book to those who have any interest in virology, especially from a molecular perspective.

John McLaughlan, Institute of Virology, Glasgow

£34.95pp. 382ISBN 0-47002-387-7

Hospital Acquired Infections Power Strategies for Clinical Practice

V. Muralidhar & S. Muralidhar

Anshan (2007)

This book presents a refreshing and new approach to hospital-acquired infections. Crucially, it addresses the cultural aspects that are seldom tackled by more conventional approaches. While less specific about some aspects of the minutiae of technical details, the authors deal well with the range of issues that need to be tackled. I particularly like the the combination of philosophical and 'how to' approach taken in the chapter on quality and the diagrams in the chapter on disinfection and sterilization - these are relevant for all working in clinical practice. In today's world where much is said and talked about in the interests of improving quality, it is helpful and also inspiring to see how this is expressed. Some may find this too 'soft' an approach; however, I disagree. The authors draw on the core values that underlie our struggle with hospital-acquired infection - one that we will always have to fight. I would recommend this to those working in the field, also to managers and those that support the front line teams. Ideally, many of the recommended approaches should be informed by strong local guidelines and detail. I will use this book.

Kathy Bamford, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

£55.00pp. 462ISBN 1-90574-055-7

Crash Course: Infectious Diseases

D. Horton-Szar & C.P. Conlon, Eds

Elsevier Limited (2007)

This book is the latest in the Crash Course series and will therefore be familiar to medical students who already make extensive use of these books. The content of the book is accurate and pitched at an appropriate level.

The purpose of this book and the series is to provide medical students with 'course notes' on a particular topic and as such the material is paired down to the basic knowledge that a student might need to pass subject-based examinations, and there are example examination questions in the back o the book.

This book could be an effective additional resource if it is used as a revision aid after a more in-depth study of relevant microbiology. Alone, it does not give sufficient depth to promote understanding of how micro-organisms cause disease and how treatment can be effected. In this context it will also be useful to students in other healthcare professions.

Helen O'Sullivan, University of Liverpool

£21.99pp. 294ISBN 0-72343-387-3

Master Medicine. Microbiology and Infection, 3rd edn

T.J.J. Inglis

Elsevier Limied (2007)

Microbiology and Infection is described as a core text for medical and other health science students, yet in the 'how to use the book' section the author unapologetically directs the text fairly and squarely at medical students.

Of the three sections, A provides a brief introduction to the field whilst B focuses in depth on specific clinical syndromes. Section C, covering individual pathogens, appears to have been added as an afterthought, indeed medically important bacteria are dispatched in 16 pages!

The format remains the same throughout; a brief discussion of the topic followed by a number of exam questions, with model answers, structured in every conceivable style from case histories to data interpretation. If you want to test your knowledge or refine your exam technique, this book could be useful, but if you are after a revision text that covers the essentials there are a number of similarly priced, excellent instant lecture note study guides available.

Sue Lang, Glasgow Caledonian University

US$49.95pp. 322ISBN 0-44310-289-9

The Microbiology Bench Companion

J.M. Miller

American Society for Microbiology (2007)

The cover of this volume suggested to this casual reviewer that he might expect similarly illustrated pages in-between. Unfortunately, the only pictures in the book are those on the outside, but the internet can readily (and hopefully accurately) embellish the text where required. The first section, which contains a collection of flowcharts to assist in the identification of the organisms from bacteria through fungi to intestinal parasites, was the most useful section. Mycology and parasitology were the sections I thought would benefit most from illustration, but perhaps this simply suggests I need more experience in the areas! The two following sections on aetiology and communicating with clinicians were less useful, but may still be of use to students or newer clinical trainees to aid their understanding of treatment decisions. Simply, this is a handy reference guide that can be easily annotated to fill in the gaps in my knowledge at least.

James Cargill, Leeds General Infirmary

US$39.95pp. 128ISBN 1-55581-402-1

Advances in Food Diagnostics

L. Nollet & F. Toldra, Eds

Blackwell Publishing (2007)

This book describes a comprehensive range of both conventional and modern diagnostic procedures and techniques for ensuring food safety and quality. In common with almost all books of this type, chapters vary in the ease with which they can be read. Although the book does not concentrate on microbiological safety, I found that many of the chapters had relevance to microbiological analyses, e.g. sampling procedures, data handling, and found these highly informative and useful. The book is well-structured and flows well, but there is overlap between some chapters although this is not excessive and is useful if one is just looking at a topic in a single chapter as it may prompt you to read other more detailed chapters. Overall, this book would appeal to food science students and generalist food scientists who need an overview of food diagnostics, but it would also be beneficial to specialists as it is useful to see how similar issues can be examined and investigated by different approaches.

Kathie Grant, Health Protection Agency

£105.00pp. 368ISBN 978-0-8138-2221-1

Superantigens: Molecular Basis for Their Role in Human Diseases

M. Kotb & J.D. Fraser, Eds

American Society for Microbiology (2007)

This text is a series of individually authored comprehensive reviews covering both historical aspects and recent developments in the field of superantigens. There is some overlap between the chapters and, as a result, they do not necessarily appear to follow a logical order. Many of the chapters are probably best read in isolation as individual reviews, depending on the interests of the reader. Some of the chapter and section titles are inappropriate, such as 'Superantigens from Gram-negative bacteria and the diseases that they cause', which would be better titled 'Superantigens of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis'. Also, the section on superantigens and human diseases only contains one chapter on skin disease and disappointingly does not include discussion of the potential role of superantigens in chronic rhinosinusitis. There is, however, much useful information presented in the book which provides a good update of this field, particularly for those who may be either starting research in this area or preparing material for Honours level teaching.

Sheila Patrick, University of Belfast

US$129.95pp. 292ISBN 1-55581-424-3

Encyclopedia of Infectious Diseases: Modern Methodologies

M. Tibayrenc, Ed.

John Wiley & Sons Limited (2007)

This multi-author book was composed to help enable a multidisciplinary approach to combating infectious diseases (IDs), in particular the newly emerging or re-emerging ones. Its intention is to appeal to a very broad spectrum of readers. The 40 chapters, written by different research groups, address very diverse topics: the molecular epidemiology of various pathogens (mycobacteria, HIV, Plasmodium, Leishmania, influenza virus, SARS virus, hantavirus, etc.), detection of unculturable pathogens, mechanisms of pathogenicity, microbial evolution (in the field and experimentally), disease control by treatment and vaccines, the problems of antibiotic usage, animal and plant diseases, vector control and medical entomology, bioterrorism, human genetics and susceptibility to IDs, the use of information technology and mathematical modelling, IDs and marketing, IDs and social anthropology, disease neglect, and IDs and art. Whilst most individual chapters are informative (not all at the same level), there are considerable overlaps. Many chapters are broad reviews more than collections of specific methodologies. Some of the more theoretical chapters are excellent, but others lack depth. It is in places difficult to see the wood for the trees as the editor has tried hard to be all-encompassing. Glossaries of specialized terms attached to many chapters are helpful.

The editor himself has pronounced this book as a 'very atypical and therefore risky project'. Whilst this reader found many chapters interesting, he has to agree with the editor's appreciation. It remains to be seen whether the holistic approach presented here will conquer the field.

Ulrich Desselberger, Cambridge

£92.50pp. 747ISBN 0-471-65732-3

Methods for General and Molecular Microbiology, 3rd edn

C.A. Reddy, T.J. Beveridge, J.A. Breznak, G.A. Marzluf, T.M. Schmidt & L.R. Snyder, Eds

American Society for Microbiology (2007)

Thirteen years on from the 2nd edition, the MGMM 'manual', although substantially updated from its predecessors, remains an invaluable reference of microbiological methods. C. Adinarayana Reddy, the Editor-in-Chief, together with five section editors, has put together an immensely informative and relevant text. Although most of the figures are in black and white, they are by and large informative, and a series of colour plates emphasizes key observations that would be difficult to visualize otherwise. The book is broken down into six sections plus an appendix section.

Section I (Morphology and ultrastructure) details a number of microscopy methods at optical and atomic scales plus supporting methodologies of cell fractionation and antibody-associated techniques. The detail and supporting flow diagrams are impressive, but most useful are the annotated references. Unfortunately, not all chapters in the section use this annotation, nor do all chapters provide vendor contacts for key reagents. However, internet searching will cover this small deficiency. In this section, I found the image reconstruction chapter (Chapter 5) particularly informative, with great explanatory text supported by clear figures.

Section II (Growth) describes in some eight chapters the factors and technologies used to stimulate and measure microbial growth. Most chapters are updates of chapters from preceding editions, but Chapter 16 provides an entirely new discussion on studying microbial symbioses, with some fascinating examples of a 'Koch's Postulates' approach to demonstrating symbiotic relationships. For example, certain squid have bioluminescent bacteria as symbionts and the behaviour of aposymbiotic squid is different from symbiotic squid; the differing behaviour is corrected by introduction of the bacteria, thus fulfilling a number of the adapted Postulates. Chapters 11 and 15 give particularly comprehensive descriptions of methodologies, reagents and resources that will be invaluable to practicing microbiologists.

Section III (Metabolism) is edited by Reddy himself, in nine chapters, five of which are new and cover key processes of respiration, fermentation, and aromatic and plant polymer metabolism. Of the four 'old' chapters, Chapter 19 has been substantially updated to provide an excellent 'biology 101' on enzymology and analytical methods involving newer indicator substrates. This grounding chapter is as essential as Chapters 21-25 are heavily focussed on enzymological methods, with Chapter 22 (Carbohydrate fermentation) being a particularly informative text, mixing delineation of metabolic pathways with fairly detailed enzyme assay procedures. The latter do lack the suppliers information that readers might find valuable.

Section IV (Molecular genetics) is again edited by Reddy, but with a co-editor this time, in nine chapters by well-known microbial geneticists, with three essentially new chapters on mutation rates, Archaea genetics and bacteriophage included. The basic DNA methods chapter (Chapter 26) contains a picture of DNA spooling, perhaps the first genetic method many of us undertook as students. Chapter 27 was particularly enjoyable as a good reference on key molecular methods of sequencing, protein-DNA interactions and transcription mapping. The relatively short Archaea and phage chapters provide some detailed methodology that are of considerable value.

Section V (Community and genomic analysis) is probably the most molecular of all sections and describes, in seven chapters, how new 'genomics' methodologies have impacted on the understanding of microbial phylogeny and evolutionary relationships. Chapter 36, for example, includes references to web-based tools for visualizing relationships and how the output of said packages can be interpreted. 'Wet' methodology in terms of library construction, current hybridization technologies and differential electrophoresis are adequately covered. Strangely, the chapter on DNA microarray technology (Chapter 45) is not included in this section, but rather sits at the end of the mycology section (Section VI). This final section, Section VI, includes three other chapters and my old mentors (Clutterbuck, Glasgow and Davies, UC Irvine) come clean and admit that they have not included post-2003 protocols on analyses of filamentous fungi in their chapter.

The Appendices consist of two chapters, and I found the laboratory safety chapter to be a particularly good and comprehensive point of reference on this subject. The chapter on culture preservation is timely given current concerns on global warming and loss of diversity, since many organizations are developing collection strategies to complement existing bio-repositories.

Overall, this book offers the methods and techniques suggested by its title. It offers considerably more, but yet is likely to be housed in reference and requisite departmental libraries rather than individual offices. It is also unlikely to be read cover to cover, but rather is likely to be used for specific reference material; with this in mind I suspect that an online searchable version would be substantially better value than the printed tome that I have reviewed.

Edward D. Blair, Cambridge

US$159.95pp. 1090ISBN 1-55581-223-2

Virulence Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogens, 4th edn

K.A. Brogden, F.C. Minion, N. Cornick, T.B. Stanton, Q. Zhang, L.K. Nolan & M.J. Wannemuehler, Eds

American Society for Microbiology (2007)

This monograph from ASM Press is based on presentations made at the Fourth International Symposium on Virulence Mechanisms in Bacterial Pathogens held at Ames, Iowa in 2006. It consists of no less than 22 chapters by an impressive field of researchers on a very wide range of topics relating to many major human pathogens. The volume is divided into five thematic sections (virulence genes, microbial interactions in health and disease, bacterial attachment and colonization, effects on host cells, innate and adaptive resistance to pathogens). The reviews are authoritative and well-referenced, but necessarily rather short. The most useful feature is the broad coverage, which allows the interested researcher a good entry point into the literature of unfamiliar areas of pathogenicity. Most of the chapters contain useful overviews as well as recent research results, making the volume of interest to academics, PhD students, postdocs and some advanced undergraduates.

David Kelly, University of Sheffield

US$119.95pp. 350ISBN 1-55581-469-4

Microbial Biodegradation: Genomics and Molecular Biology

E. Diaz, Ed.

Caister Academic Press (2008)

This book attempts, and chiefly succeeds in addressing the current, but fast-moving field of molecular biology methodologies and techniques involved in biodegradation. The role of molecular biology and genomics - particularly in this case metagenomics (and indeed proteomics) - is becoming increasingly important in the study of the biodegradation and bioremediation process, and this book has chapters that examine well-defined aspects of both individual and appropriately combined topics. Scientifically, the book presents recent work, but in this field the level at which research is carried out will quickly out-date some pieces, although the text will at worst still provide a useful resource. Due to the nature of some of the chapters there is some repetition, as is perhaps to be expected, although there are halves of two chapters that are virtual copies of one another covering exactly the same subjects in different words.

This book is very much aimed at the institution (the price provides the greatest clue) and perhaps the lab engaged in research into the molecular side of biodegradation, where it provides an overview of the most current aspects. However, given the availability of the information, the book does not justify its price tag, but does provide a handy one-stop review of how molecular biology is being used currently with regard to biodegradation.

Russ Grant, University College Dublin

£150.00US$300.00pp. 402ISBN 1-90445-517-2

The Cyanobacteria: Molecular Biology, Genomics and Evolution

A. Herrero & E. Flores, Eds

Caister Academic Press (2008)

A 'must' for postgraduate and academic cyanobacteriologists alike, this impressive volume covers such an array of topics to be useful to most microbiologists. Encompassing topics ranging from Earth history, through ecology and genomics to details of molecular structure of the photosynthetic apparatus, there is enough to chew on here for those with even the most insatiable of appetites for new information. If that wasn't enough, the inclusion of authoritative chapters on nitrogen fixation, cyanobacterial-plant symbioses and the prokaryotic variety of circadian oscillators extends the remit further. Certainly a state-of-the-art description of cyanobacterial research and a very readable book too.

David Scanlan, University of Warwick

£150.00US$300.00pp. 484ISBN 1-90445-515-8

Models of Exacerbations in Asthma and COPD

U. Sjobring & J.D. Taylor, Eds

S. Karger AG (2007)

The book provides an excellent source of information on models of exacerbation of respiratory disease by viral infections. The contributors are all leaders in their respective fields and they discuss both human and animal models. It is much more than just a technical manual, as the authors provide some useful reviews of the topic. I was particularly interested in the epidemiology and annual cycles of exacerbations as the factors driving these cycles are not fully understood. I found the book thought-provoking, and was stimulated to follow up several of the references. The book will be of interest to all those involved in research in asthma and COPD, and could be also be recommended to virologists and epidemiologists in this area. It will be a useful addition to hospital and research libraries, and for those in the field it is a good read.

Ronald Eccles, Cardiff University

€103.50pp. 145ISBN 3-80558-332-9

Animal Viruses: Molecular Biology

T.C. Mettenleiter & F. Sobrino, Eds

Caister Academic Press (2008)

This text is a thorough, up-to-date review of the molecular biology of a number of key animal viruses. Each chapter represents a detailed reference on each of the ten virus groups covered. Although the viruses discussed are primarily of veterinary and agricultural importance, we must not forget how much we have learned from animal viruses about those of mankind. This volume will therefore be of interest to students and researchers of human viruses as well as animal ones. The style in which the book is laid out is somewhat disappointing, however, with too few figures to break up the text, and none of the figures being in colour. In addition, a considerable proportion of each chapter is taken up by references; the use of smaller text would have been better. The book is very expensive and, as such, is likely to be well out of reach of most individuals.

Christopher Ring, Glaxo SmithKline R&D

£150.00US$300.00pp. 530ISBN 1-90445-522-6

Coronaviruses: Molecular and Cellular Biology

V. Thiel, Ed.

Caister Academic Press (2007)

Coronaviruses are an unusual group of viruses in that they have the largest RNA virus genome and have a variety of 'tricks' for their replication. They are also responsible for a number of diseases in both man and a wide of animal species. In 2003 they received notoriety with the advent of a coronavirus, SARS-CoV, responsible for causing the first epidemic of the new millennium. This review consisting of 16 chapters divided into two parts covers both the process of coronavirus replication and various aspects of the diseases caused by some coronaviruses. The editor has selected an excellent series of chapters that have been written by selected authors for expert coverage of the various topics. The layout of the chapters makes easy reading with up to date information and the individual chapters are thoroughly referenced. I would certainly recommend the book for new and established people in the field. My only concern is the cost; at £150, the book is only really appropriate for library or institutional purchases.

Paul Britton, Institute for Animal Health

£150.00US$300.00pp. 350ISBN 1-90445-516-5

Sex in Fungi: Molecular Determination and Evolutionary Implications

J. Heitman, J.W. Kronstad, J.W. Taylor & L.A. Casselton, Eds

American Society for Microbiology (2007)

With individual chapter titles that include 'Why bother with sex?' and 'Why sex is good' this was always going to be an interesting read, but truly this is a fascinating and timely book. Many of the 58 contributors together provide a comprehensive account of cutting edge developments relating to the nature and evolution of the mating-type locus, both in fungi capable of sexual reproduction and in those organisms with an apparent cryptic sexual cycle. The descriptions of the latter group are particularly fascinating, not least because elements of cryptic sexual cycles may influence virulence in pathogenic fungi. The authors also provide illuminating insights into the homothallism, heterothallism dichotomy and the remarkable multiallelic mating type systems of basidiomycetes. The book should prove invaluable to all students and practitioners of mycology and will hopefully help reinforce the importance of fungi both generally and as invaluable research tools and model organisms.

David J. Adams, University of Leeds

US$169.95pp. 572ISBN 1-55581-421-2

Methods for Computational Gene Prediction

W.H. Majoros

Cambridge University Press (2007)

This book is not a user manual for the various gene-finding softwares. What it is, however, is a comprehensive review of the underlying theory of gene-finding. In fact, after working through this book you could probably write your own gene-finding software! It might be tough for non-numerate readers lacking any programming experience; however, for anyone who has successfully written a few scripts and has a reasonable recollection of 'A-level' maths, then this book is very approachable. As well as providing an excellent introduction to the main subject, the author also does a good job of summarizing a range of other mathematical and computational concepts and techniques. The primers on dynamic programming, HMMs, sets, graphs, and language theory are equally applicable to a host of other sequence analysis problems. As such, I think this would be an excellent set text for a Masters level or advanced undergraduate Bioinformatics course.

David Studholme, John Innes Centre

£29.99pp. 430ISBN 0-52170-694-0 paperback

Acinetobacter: Molecular Biology

U. Gerischer, Ed.

Caister Academic Press (2008)

This book provides a wide-ranging series of reviews on the genus Acinetobacter, covering taxonomy, metabolism, genetics and regulatory mechanisms, industrial applications, virulence and pathogenicity, clinical epidemiology and antibiotic resistance. Virtually all are well-written and extensively referenced, citing appropriate recently published material. The major omission is any chapter on how to handle the clinical problems caused by the genus. There is nothing on infection control, or on the question of what to use in a pneumonia caused by a carbapenem-resistant strain: polymyxin, nebulized colistin, sulbactam or tigecycline? In short, this book is a must for anyone working on molecular aspects of Acinetobacter, even at the rather steep price. Those dealing with the clinical problems caused by A. baumannii will probably prefer to consult a library copy.

David Livermore, Health Protection Agency

£150.00US $300.00pp. 348ISBN 1-90445-520-2

Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing Protocols

R. Schwalbe, L. Steele-Moore & A.C. Goodwin, Eds

Taylor & Francis Group (2007)

How difficult can it be to test whether a micro-organism is susceptible to an antimicrobial agent? In fact, determining susceptibility is often challenging. It is compounded by the fact that results are judged by eye, making interpretation highly subjective. One person's haze is another's clarity. Any attempt to provide guidance on the conduct and interpretation of antimicrobial susceptibility testing must, therefore, be welcomed. A word of caution is necessary here. This book is the product of the US Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute and while the authors make much of the consensus approach adopted by CLSI, these standards are not universally accepted. At least two other bodies publish guidelines on susceptibility testing; BSAC and EUCAST. While this book describes a range of protocols, clearly this is not a definitive guide. It is also a book with an American perspective, describing some drugs that are not available in Europe. Like the curate's egg this book is excellent - in parts.

John Heritage, University of Leeds

US$149.95pp. 414ISBN 0-82474-100-6

Segmented Double-stranded RNA Viruses: Structure and Molecular Biology

J.T. Patton, Ed.

Caister Academic Press (2008)

This is a splendid and very timely book which brings together reviews of the leading groups who have been and are involved in structure-function studies of dsRNA viruses [Orthoreovirus, Rotavirus, Orbivirus (bluetongue virus), Phytoreovirus (rice dwarf virus), Cypovirus (cytoplasmic polyhydrosis virus), Totiviridae (yeast L-A virus), Birnaviridae (infectious bursal disease virus, avian birnavirus), Cystoviridae (bacteriophage phi6)]. The reviews are arranged in three sections: Virion architecture and assembly, Protein structure and function, and RNA replication. Enormous progress has been made over the past 10-15 years in analysing individual proteins, protein-protein complexes and sometimes core particles by X-ray crystallography (at 2.5-4 Â resolution) and by image reconstruction of core particles from cryo-electron micrographs (at 10-20 Â resolution). This approach has allowed detailed analysis of structure-function relationships of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) molecules of several dsRNA viruses, of several of their attachment proteins, of the packaging motor of phi6, and of viral non-structural proteins. For phi6, which possesses three segments of dsRNA as its genome, it has been possible to re-assemble infectious particles entirely from their isolated components and, based on structural data, to dissect and understand the assembly pathway at the molecular level. With regard to experimental probing of structures and replication pathways by reverse genetics approaches, there have been several new developments (for Orthoreovirus, Rotavirus and Orbivirus) which have been published during the past 12-18 months; they complement part III of the book in an exciting way and demonstrate the vivacity and rapidity of progress in the field.

The book makes fascinating reading and will be an incentive to many students of natural and biological sciences as well as established virologists who are involved in structure-function studies in this and other viral families. The price is relatively high, but the book is excellent value for money and is highly recommended.

Ulrich Desselberger, Cambridge

£150.00US$300.00pp. 370ISBN 1-90445-521-9

Last updated 28 January 2008