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From The CriticsReviewer: Farrin A Manian, MD, MPH (St. John's Mercy Medical Center)
Description: This is an interesting book devoted to the history of infections in hospitals and measures to control them particularly over the last five centuries. It serves as a ready reference for the reader who is interested in learning about "how we got to where we are" in the practice of infection control in modern hospitals.
Purpose: The purpose is to trace the history of hospital infections to the current epoch. The book should be welcomed by any professional interested in infectious diseases and infection control. The authors meet their objectives with a heavy bias in covering British hospitals.
Audience: Although the authors do not specify an audience for their book, in my judgment it would be useful for anyone interested in the history of infection control in hospitals, including hospital epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, and professionals in infection control. Both authors are credible authorities in this field.
Features: The book covers a variety of infections associated with hospitalization throughout the centuries, theories of their causation and transmission, and discusses the evolving measures devised to deal with them. The importance of sterilization and disinfection in the twentieth century is explored in a dedicated chapter. The challenges of controlling antimicrobial resistant organisms (e.g. methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) among increasingly debilitated hospitalized patients receives due attention. Shortcomings include some repetition in content among chapters and disproportionate coverage of British hospitals compared to other European or American hospitals. Occasional misleading and inaccurate statements are also found. For example, Chapter 10 is entitled "The twentieth century: the emergence of antimicrobial chemotherapy and the demise of the haemolytic streptococcus." For many practitioners who encounter severe streptococcal infections (e.g. necrotizing fascitis, or streptococcal toxic-shock syndrome) on a regular basis, the news of the "demise" of hemolytic streptococcus seems to be grossly exaggerated. Furthermore, when discussing emergence of antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin is considered "toxic, requires continual monitoring, and is not an ideal therapeutic agent" with reference given to a 1963 article. Many practitioners in infectious disease would beg to differ with this view, given the extensive safety record of vancomycin.
Assessment: Overall, this is an interesting book that should be of great use for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of infectious disease in hospitals. I am not aware of any other comparable book published in recent times that is solely dedicated to achieving this goal.