Does viral hepatitis merit a 649-page, 10-lb review? It certainly does. Readers and the publisher appear to agree, because Viral Hepatitis has now appeared in a second edition. Hepatitis viruses are important agents of disease worldwide, and hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV), which produce chronic infections, affect hundreds of millions of people. These two viruses cause most cases of chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer in the world.
Viral Hepatitis, a multiauthored work, aims to present to clinicians, pathologists, and epidemiologists the best of our understanding of the basic virology of the hepatitis viruses and of some viruses, such as hepatitis G virus, that resemble but do not seem actually to be hepatitis viruses. Virologists will benefit from reviews of the current understanding of clinical and epidemiologic aspects of hepatitis viruses.
The introduction to the book was written by Dame Sheila Sherlock, the doyenne of the field, and is a superb review of the clinical features of hepatitis. The book is organized into sections on each of the viruses, with chapters on molecular virology, epidemiology, natural history, diagnosis, pathogenesis, treatment, and prevention. These chapters, which review comprehensively what is known about these viruses, are followed by more general reviews on, for example, the treatment of fulminant hepatitis, transfusion-associated hepatitis, and the application of molecular biology to the diagnosis of viral hepatitis. The latter chapter, by Brechot, is superb, supplementing and clarifying material covered in previous chapters.
Virologists will be particularly interested in chapters such as Kann and Gerlich's elegantly illustrated and imaginative review of the molecular virology of HBV and the comprehensive review of the molecular virology of HCV by McGarvey et al. No better reviews of these subjects are available. The review by Buendia et al. of the molecular aspects of hepatocelluar carcinoma, which is thought by some to be the world's most common cancer, at least in men, is especially noteworthy; it reveals the little-appreciated fact that half of the patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who test negative for hepatitis B surface antigens have HBV DNA sequences in their tumors. Other chapters that are especially interesting are Thomas and Thursz's review of the pathogenesis of chronic HBV infections and Okuda's review of the natural history of chronic hepatitis C and hepatocellular carcinoma.
All in all, reading this book will be a stimulating educational experience for virologists, clinicians, epidemiologists, and pathologists who are interested in liver disease. Viral Hepatitis deserves to be in many home libraries; a paperback edition, with a lower price, would be welcome. The rate of progress in this field is such that the third edition should not be long in coming.