The title of the book says it all: this book treats the expertise of immunology at the cellular and molecular level. It approaches the subject through a collection of explanations of experimental observations. Neither am I a physician nor a medical student, I find this book very comprehensible and helpful in explaining the principles of molecular biology/biochemistry [along with my expertise in chemistry] pertinent to the HIV virus. The book is abound with illustrations and pictorials though the authors at times drag on repeating concepts. The section on effector mechanisms of the immune responses is done in excellent gory details. Tons of illustrations, graphics making understanding of biochemical and immunological mechanisms a less strenuous task. For example, the HIV virus, the book will cover the abnormal events that occur at the first contact of the HIV virus. Then it talks about the virus mechanisms and the effect on the immune response. This 5th edition has been revised and now includes new info and materials about the lymphoid organs and innate immunity mechanism. I recommend it to medical students, pre-meds, and all health care professionals. 4.0 stars.
I first read an earlier edition of the book in 1993, during my first graduate level Biology class, under the same title as the book. Since then, some important strides have been made in the field of Immunology, and the book has grown about 50% thicker. However, many themes are repeated too often in the book. 1/2 of a sentence is OK to stress repetition in learning concepts, but often they repeat entire paragraphs 4 or 5 times to strike home a point. If they were to get rid of all those redundant paragraphs, the book would be leaner and meaner and less boring to read. One of the most interesting concepts in the book deals with the Th1/Th2 immune switch, which occurs in allergic patients. The authors classically define this switch simply as going from microbial immunity to allergen immunity. But in my opinion, Th1 to Th2 switches do much more than that. They can affect whether an allergic person is more or less immune to microbes, whether they are differentially immune (ex. more immune to viruses, less to bacteria), and also may significantly affect the person's behavior. Behavior, you ask? What does the immune system have to do with behavior? A lot! Histamine is released during the Th1 to Th2 switch, and Histamine is a neurotransmitter. Also, Serotonin is usually released along with Histamine, and you should know that Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter. The immune system affects the central nervous system much more than many researchers understand. For a more elaborate review of this phenomenon, you can read the book The Failures of American Medicine.
My only immunology background was in medical school in the early 80s. I bought this book to try to get a basic grasp on what immunology is about now, 20 years later. This book is excellent for that. As other reviewers have commented, the material is well organized and illustrated. The illustrations are numerous enough and detailed enough to almost form an outline in their own right. While there is considerable repetition, I consider that this is one of the best features of the book for a newcomer such as I. The repetition is clearly very intentional, not the result of disorganization or sloppy editing. Rather it enough to let the reader grasp both the forest and the trees. It also lets you, to some extent, read from any section of the book without being totally lost if you don't remember the previous material.
For the advanced reader, I like Janeway's text better because of the depth of information presented, but for an introductory class, Abbas is more accessable and understandable in the introductory chapters. I recommend using them in tandem, I do! The figures are good, but interestingly enough, the illustrations in all the major texts on immunology are largely the same! If you need a CD with illustrations (you are an instructor or want to use them for a presentation etc) I recommend the CD accompanying Peter Parham's text book.
Target audience: Any undergrad or grad student in life sciences. Little background needed beyond the basics of genetics, what is a cell etc. A bit too much for the typical MD course; try Abbas's Basic Immuno. It is a reference for basic immuno concepts, not a reference for every last detail in modern immunology (for that try Paul's Immuno). What Abbas does: After reading this book (or at least skimming the pictures) you will be able to read the abstracts for immuno journals; you'll be able to say "I vaguely understand why the heck this journal article is important/furthers knowledge of immunology". Pros: The most up-to-date (more recent than Janeway). A proven favorite of grad students. The pictures are easy-to-follow and demostrate all the main points. In fact, it may be better not to read much of the detail filled text, if you just want general knowledge. Little text boxes that highlight a technique, a historical development (e.g. how they cloned T Cell receptor). Nice section in the back on common lab techniques. Nice chapters on clinical correlates (human disease). Cons: It is not comprehensive (like Paul's Immunology) nor is it meant to be comprehensive. The signal transduction is hopelessly out of date (all textbooks will fall behind rapid developments in sig transduction). Geeky immuno nit-picking: Some controversial topics are presented as gospel (for example, anergy and the 2-signal hypothesis, which has not been convincingly demonstrated in vivo "natural system"; if you don't know what i'm talking about, don't worry about it).
This immunology textbook has been what many bioloy students are waiting for. Among other well-known texts, this book is the thinest. However, the materails contained are so comprehensive that it can be used as a regular textbook. There are not many illustrations in this book as you usually see in a typical immunology book but these group of authors have done a nice job describing many difficult topics ( such as immunoglobulin gene rearrangement, B and T cell maturation, complement, Hypersensitivity etc.) easier and clearer by using simple language. Moreover,this new edition has been updated with very recent knowledge of immunology. If you anyhow don't like Kuby or Janeways' books, this book can be another excellent one.