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Volume 14, Number 5—May 2008
Books and Media

Superantigens: Molecular Basis for Their Role in Human Diseases

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Malak Kotb; John D. Frasereditors
ASM Press, Washington, DC, USA, 2007
ISBN-10: 1555814247
ISBN-13: 978-1555814243
Pages: 263; Price: US $129.95

This collection of short reviews by experts in the field provides a complete overview of microbial superantigens, an unusual family of proteins that form an abnormal linkage between the major histocompatibility complex class II antigens and specific T-cell repertoire Vβ families. This linkage leads to the nonspecific activation of large numbers of regulatory T lymphocytes, producing cytokine storms that can have a variety of serious clinical consequences.

The book is organized into 5 sections with a total of 16 chapters. The first section is an overview of the breadth and scope of superantigen research, including an up-to date catalog of superantigens characterized from both bacteria and viruses, their cellular interactions, and disease associations. The next 3 chapters deal with the 3-dimensional structure, function, and diversity of superantigens, including an account of the critical involvement of zinc in the optimal binding of some of these proteins. Section 3 contains an entire chapter that describes the pathophysiology of superantigens in both acute and chronic skin disorders. Several chapters in section 4 describe in vitro and animal model systems for the study of diseases caused by superantigens, including autoimmune disease, neuropathology, toxic shock, and others.

The final 4 chapters in section 5 detail various therapeutic approaches for superantigen-mediated diseases. These approaches include conventional antibiotics, antagonistic peptides, intravenous immunoglobulin, antibodies directed to T-cell costimulatory receptors, and superantigen receptor mimics, in addition to existing and experimental approaches. An unnumbered section after the first chapter contains high-quality color plate illustrations, which collectively provide outstanding visual support for several chapters.

Superantigens affords a comprehensive look at the current state of knowledge regarding these interesting proteins in a relatively compact volume. The text is certainly a must-read for any scientist engaged in their study but will also prove a rewarding read for microbiologists interested in this curious interaction between mibrobes and the immune system.


D. Scott Schmid*Comments to Author 
Author affiliation: *Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA


Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid1405.080089

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Table of Contents – Volume 14, Number 5—May 2008

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Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

D. Scott Schmid, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd NE, Mailstop G18, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA;

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Page created: July 08, 2010
Page updated: July 08, 2010
Page reviewed: July 08, 2010
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.