Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; 2006.

Sophie Dwyer, Academic General Practice registrar, Discipline of General Practice, University of Adelaide

Therapeutic Guidelines: Antibiotic is the original and most widely distributed book in the Therapeutic Guidelines series. There have been revisions and additions to the content, but there have been few changes to the concise and easy-to-use format of this book.

The primary use of Therapeutic Guidelines: Antibiotic is as a quick evidence-based reference guide for practitioners in selecting an appropriate antibiotic. The succinct discussion relevant to clinical diagnosis and common organisms is as valuable as the actual recommendations. Where the use of antibiotics is controversial or not indicated for a particular condition, this is discussed, as is non-pharmacologic management. Importantly for infectious diseases, the content is distinctly Australian.

The book commences with a discussion of the principles of antimicrobial use that covers basics such as antibiotic choice, duration of treatment and resistance. The 'Getting to know your drugs' chapter looks briefly at antimicrobials by class. Later chapters discuss administration routes, pregnancy and lactation with a detailed section on dose reduction in renal failure. Specific information on particular drugs is better covered by books such as the Australian Medicines Handbook.

The largest component of the book is arranged by system with conditions ordered alphabetically. Recommendations for first-line antimicrobial treatment are generally accompanied by at least one alternative. Chapters are devoted to specific infections such as malaria, HIV and mycobacteria. A whole chapter is now dedicated to the management of pneumonia. The chapter on the management of severe sepsis has been expanded and includes more information on initial management than the previous version. Newly included treatment algorithms cover important conditions such as pneumonia and meningitis. The rationale for medical and surgical antibiotic prophylaxis is also covered.

This guide is a well entrenched source of reliable information for general practitioners, hospital staff and specialists. The pocket-sized book is also available in 'updateable' versions for desktop computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs) which means many practitioners have several avenues to access this information. These electronic versions have the advantage of including all the titles in the Therapeutic Guidelines series.