A Very Short Introduction to the Coolest Subject on Earth -- A Review of Wayne and Bolker's Infectious Disease: A Very Short Introduction

I often give lectures on the whole breadth of the discipline of infectious diseases and am often stymied by just what to include, what to merely mention, and what to exclude. Given this difficult task that I often encounter I was very interested to to read Infectious Disease: A Very Short Introduction. This book, part of the extensive "A Very Short Introduction series of books, is written by University of Florida biologist Marta Wayne and McMaster University mathematics, statistics, and biology professor Ben Bolker

The book is a short read aimed at the novice but definitely appealing to those with expert knowledge, primarily because of the choice of the topics they included and the facets they chose to highlight. The combination of a biologist and a biological modeler as co-authors is very strong strength of the book.

Some of the highlights to me include the discussion of the proposed value, conceptually, of models of infection. Specifically, I found the discussion of the encounter filter (does a microbe have access to a host?) and the compatibility filter (does the microbe have the ability to productively infect a host?) to be illuminating and an important way to gauge the effectiveness of various countermeasures. 

Other important concepts discussed include genotype frequency, HIV template switching, fascinating comparisons of the genetic diversity of HIV and influenza, the predator-prey relationship of cholera and its phages, and the natural "cholera bomb".

To me one of the most valuable chapters dealt not with a human disease but with a disease of amphibians: the chytrid fungus. This chapter is full of important information that illustrates how an emergence of a disease might occur, how it might progress, and how it might be controlled. Particularly illuminating is the juxtaposition of the novel and endemic pathogen hypotheses.

I highly recommend this little but very valuable book to those both casually interested in infectious as well as those obsessively interested in the field (like me).