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Cellular microbiology: an integrated approach to understanding pathogenesis of infection
T.J. Mitchell


Cellular Microbiology by P. Cossart, P. Boquet, S. Normark and R. Rappuoli ASM Press (2000) pp. 392. ISBN 1–55581-157-4 $75.95 The term ‘cellular microbiology’ was coined by the editors of this book in 1996. Since then several volumes and journals addressing this subject have been produced and Cellular Microbiology is a valuable contribution to an exciting field. In studying the pathogenesis of infectious diseases it is clear that an understanding of the interaction between the host and the pathogen requires a knowledge of both and here we have an excellent source of information for the integrated study of microbiology and cell biology. The first two chapters are a useful general introduction to the two subject areas and will be particularly useful for scientists of the ‘opposite’ discipline i.e. microbiologists will find the cell biology section particularly useful and vice versa. The chapters then progress through the encounter of the pathogen with the eukaryotic cell, from the interactions occurring at the cell surface, the mechanisms of attachment and the interaction with the cell cytoskeleton, to the action of bacterial toxins and the consequences of these interactions. Although the book relates mainly to the interaction of bacteria with the host there are also many interesting discussions on parasites and some fungi. Later chapters describe the interaction of pathogens with the immune system, covering the use of bacterial products as tools in cell biology and describing some of the underlying methodology involved in cellular microbiology; there are also interesting chapters on Type III and Type IV secretion systems. As with any textbook in a rapidly expanding area there is a danger that the information contained will rapidly become dated. This may apply especially to the chapters on secretion systems which are the subject of intense research effort. The chapters are all relatively short and can be read as stand alone ‘mini-reviews’ of the area. This will be very useful for students studying these areas. Cellular Microbiology is very well written and readable. The contributors are all experts in their respective fields and manage to communicate a sense of excitement that will be particularly valuable for readers relatively new to the area. The appearance of the book is enhanced by high quality diagrams and colour plates and the inclusion of some nice electron micrographs. Summary boxes provide useful background information relevant to the area being discussed; selected readings at the end of each chapter provide a good starting point for those wishing to find further information; however, there is no extensive referencing in the text, which may be a problem for the more specialised reader. Overall, this is an excellent textbook. I am sure it will serve both as an essential teaching aid for undergraduate cellular microbiology courses (which are becoming increasingly common) as well as for graduate students and other researchers in this expanding area. The editors and contributors are to be congratulated on producing such a wide-ranging and readable book. I am sure it will both consolidate interest in the area as well as recruit new members to the group of people who are fascinated by the study of cellular microbiology.