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Books, Journals, New Media
November 1, 2000

Tropical Medicine: Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

JAMA. 2000;284(17):2251-2252. doi:10.1001/jama.284.17.2251-JBK1101-3-1

This first edition of the Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine contains a table of contents, a foreword by David Heymann, a comprehensive list of abbreviations, 18 chapters, including an introduction, important contact addresses for various organizations, an index, and approximately 30 tables, 125 figures, and 200 boxes. There is no bibliography or glossary, but there is ample space for inserting or making additional notes on local conditions, protocols, and schedules.

There are about eight major contributors. The target audience appears to be primarily doctors practicing in developing countries, especially those working in the tropics. It would also be usefully provided to students undertaking courses in tropical medicine, as an adjunct to standard major reference textbooks in tropical medicine and clinical medicine. The Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine is presented as a nearly 700 page, 18×10 cm, hard-wearing soft plastic cover publication, which would fit easily into the clinician's briefcase, handbag, or even the clinical white coat. On the inside front cover is a list of 14 major emergencies and the page references to find information to manage them. The back cover has a list of the major chapters in the book. The highlighted page numbers, staggered according to chapters and located centrally on the side of the page, also help to identify individual chapters.

Clinicians, especially those new to the area of tropical medicine, may find the handbook a useful adjunct to management of clinical problems in the tropics and also informative reading in a concise format that may help to build the scope and content of their knowledge in tropical medicine. The handbook includes a unique collection of World Health Organization (WHO) management guidelines and algorithms, which are useful in approaching clinical entities and problems that clinicians encounter. The concise style means the handbook is consistent in presentation and easy to read. Visual impact has been heightened by the incorporation of extensive boxes, tables, and figures. The cover, printed in four mainly bright colors, adds some visual impact; cover design is generally quite basic, but still functional.

Chapters include: an introduction; the WHO–United Nations Children's Fund approach to the integrated management of childhood illness; the major tropical diseases, incorporating malaria, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases, and acute respiratory infections/pneumonia; fevers in the tropics and systemic signs; cardiology; chest medicine; renal diseases; gastroenterology; neurology; dermatology; endocrinology; hematology; nutrition; injuries and poisoning; immunization; laboratory investigations; and useful contact addresses. The chapters are based on clinical medicine, with particular issues of tropical medicine added or highlighted. Highlights within these chapters include useful sections on universal precautions and isolation measures; the figure on page 11, which is an especially useful summary of the steps in outbreak control for clinicians; a handy key to the identification of malaria parasites and directions for undertaking essential laboratory investigations, such as making thick and thin films and fecal smears; sections dealing with advanced life support (ALS) and first aid, which underlines the importance of the reader having a working knowledge of ALS and first aid; fairly comprehensive discussions on the major parasitic and infectious diseases; good sections on anemia and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency; and comprehensive discussions on malnutrition.

Possible limitations of the handbook include the brevity of the chapter on child health, which may require interested readers to consult a dedicated handbook of tropical pediatrics; the absence of information on recent advances in malarial diagnosis and management; the need for a table or box on personal protective measures against disease vectors; the need for additional emphasis on the prevention and chemoprophylaxis of traveler's diarrhea; the lack of a discussion concerning the controversy or safeguards in practice surrounding Japanese encephalitis vaccination; the need for a little more on what is known on the clinical findings and diagnosis of lymphatic filariasis in expatriates; the brevity of the section on snakebite, with a need for more information on envenomation syndromes and their management, especially in relation to spiders and marine stingers; the absence of a section dealing with the cold chain; the need for an expanded appendix or chapter on laboratory investigations, perhaps giving normal ranges (although some information on tests is given in the body of the various chapters); and the need for a less European oriented listing of useful contact addresses. Interestingly, two of the index references to hookworms lead to the chapter on gastroenterology, although there appear to be no references to hookworms in the indicated subsection, which focuses on ascariasis. This is probably an isolated problem, since no other similar problems were encountered.

Perhaps the handbook has partially failed to capitalize on an opportunity to extend its scope to travel medicine, an important application of the principles of tropical medicine and public health. It would have been useful to also have a page dedicated to listing the various contributors and their affiliations.

The production of the first edition of the Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine is a credible effort. It is a worthy addition to handbook series published by Oxford University Press. In particular, it could be a useful adjunct to the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. The handbook will appeal to clinicians working in developing countries or in the tropics, particularly those who may not already use a similar handbook or guide in their clinical practice. Students and new clinicians in tropical medicine will find it a useful learning tool. Clinicians will also find the handbook easy to read. The cost is not prohibitive for clinicians or students, and it is invaluable when used by the clinician in conjunction with standard reference textbooks in tropical medicine and general medicine.