I wrote the following book review for the Mycological Society of America‘s Inoculum newsletter and I think the book is a great resource if you study Cryptococcus — so I am reproducing my review here. You can also find a copy of the review here.
The yeast-forming basidiomycete genus, Cryptococcus, has emerged as a significant model for both fungal genetics and pathogenicity. A long history of research compounded with numerous laboratory resources, as well as two sequenced genomes, have yielded a great deal of information on this enigmatic fungus. The new book Cryptococcus: From Human Pathogen To Model Yeast, edited by Heitman, Kozel, Kwon-Chung, Perfect, and Casadevall, features contributions from 123 authors and summarizes a vast amount of data as well as synthesizes disparate concepts on the biology of Cryptococcus. If you consider Casadevall & Perfect’s 1998 tome Cryptococcus neoformans as the groundwork for this book, then these 646 pages are evidence for the explosive advance of knowledge on Cryptococcus that has accrued over the last 12 years.
Cryptococcus species, arguably the most important fungal pathogen of mammals, are common in immuno-compromised hosts; HIV-associated cryptococcosis alone infects more than 1 million people per year. For example, Cryptococcus has been laboratory confirmed in Sub-Saharan African countries to be responsible for anywhere from 10 to 70% of fatal meningitis cases over the last two decades. A well-publicized outbreak of a particularly virulent strain of C. gattii was determined to be the causative agent of more than 200 cases of human meningitis in non-immuno compromised individuals within the Pacific Northwest over the last decade. A concerted global consortium of medical mycology researchers the majority of whom are authors of chapters in this book have provided the foundation for establishing Cryptococcus as the model system for understanding fungal pathogenesis in both a medical and veterinary setting.
Species of Cryptococcus entered my personal radar when they kept turning up in plant-associated environmental samples. Wanting to get up to speed with natural history, population genetics, and methods for typing Cryptococcal diversity, this book was an obvious entry point for me. Chapters here are dedicated to identification from environmental niches – such as the description of avian- or plant-associated vectors – as well as population biology to phylogeography, and species complexes to hybridization.
Copiously illustrated throughout, notable figures include those documenting Cryptococcus morphology, cell and molecular biological networks, secondary metabolite chemistry, and gene and genome structure. Chapters devoted to phylogeography and species complexes have detailed phylogenetic trees and distribution maps. Additionally, this wouldn’t be a clinical textbook if it didn’t include a series of color and monochrome plates of human and animal infections that remind you why you have – or haven’t – studied medical mycology.
Mycologists aren’t the only ones who will find this resource useful. Geared toward a wide array of specialists, this book is equally applicable to the interests of clinicians and physicians, microbiologists and immunologists, disease ecologists and epidemiologists, and, to a lesser extent, public health and policy administrators. The book succeeds in connecting and interpreting basic research science and applying this knowledge in a clinical context.
The book consists of a whopping 44 chapters separated into seven sections. These sections are devoted to general biology; genetics and genomics; virulence; environmental interactions and population biology; immune host responses; pathogenesis; and diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Each of the sections consist of five to eight chapters and each informative chapter stands on its own – concise enough to allow for discrete chunks of reading without overwhelming the reader. In fact, I would argue that the book’s greatest strength is cohesive breadth blended with factual depth. My only criticism and this is an extremely minor one is that the book as a whole is slightly overwhelming in scope. This by no means indicates a lack of vision from the authors or editors, but reflects their desire to take into consideration the complete state of knowledge relating to Cryptococcus and its biology. As a result, the contributors have not only provided a truly fascinating and utterly comprehensive collection of everything Cryptococcus, but have set the bar high for the best treatise on fungal biology at the genus level. I would consider this book essential for anyone working directly with Cryptococcus or wanting to get up to speed and for mycologists looking for a framework to fully grasp the biology of an important model fungus.