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Ed by A. McMillan, H. Young, M. M. Ogilvie, G. R. Scott. Pp608; £93, 99, 2002. ISBN 0702025380.
This book, aimed at doctors in training in genitourinary medicine, is highly readable and manages to pack in a lot more material than one would guess from its size. It is largely successful in this goal, combining clarity of language and excellent clinical photographs where these are used.
In a book this compact the authors clearly did not intend to address comprehensively all the subjects raised, as indicated by the widespread referral to reviews and specialist books and use of up to date references for those inclined to seek further information. The length I think is more a strength than a weakness although it must have been difficult to decide what aspects of these disparate infections to include and what to leave out. However, perhaps because of the wider audience, when discussing certain pathological states some information on, or illustrations of, normal state or function would have been helpful. For the same reason legends explaining some of the abbreviations used (for example, for recently defined cytokines and cellular molecules) would not have been remiss.
It is a brave person who sets upon the task of writing a medical textbook, not least because it is such hard work, but also because the accelerating pace of change in the biomedical sciences can make an author seem more like an historian. Even in this up to date book there is information that needs revision already, in view of recent changes (for example, page 158 management of
) The authors have acknowledged this to some extent, by the use of “evolving” references in many instances (page 151 UNAIDS website; www.aidsmap.com for HIV treatment).
Long term utility of this kind of book depends, among other things on how well it is researched and written, but also crucially on the pace of further progress in the field and thus how often it needs revision. Progress is bound to continue in many areas of STI epidemiology and clinical practice. It would seem that web based books in a state of perpetual revision (for example, www.hopkins-aids.edu/publications/book/book_toc.html) may go some way to addressing the question of whether a book survives as a useful text.
This book may not be the last word on the subject of STIs but it is certainly a good place to start.