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Topics in International Health: Trachoma

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    Topics in International Health: Trachoma. £45 ($80) institutional rates; £20 ($35) individual rate. The Wellcome Trust. Wallingford, Oxon: CABI Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0 85199 242 0.

    This is one of a series of CD ROMs on international health produced by the Wellcome Trust. The series was originally planned as a replacement when the trust closed its museum of tropical medicine more than 10 years ago, and has been a long time in gestation. The available software has come a long way in the past 10 years, and we have come to expect a degree of user friendliness that enables a computer illiterate such as myself to gain easy access to the material; but unfortunately this CD ROM did not come up to my expectations in this respect. It was only after some frustration and considerable help from my wife that I was able to get hold of the main menu.

    The menu revealed that the material was arranged in three main scenarios: a glossary, an image library, and a tutorial. The glossary is very broad and covers a wide variety of ophthalmological terms that bear no relation to trachoma. The image library is extensive, but includes a large number of pictures of Chlamydia trachomatis at various stages of its life cycle in tissue culture; it is hard to see that these will be relevant to most users with an interest in trachoma, who are unlikely to have access to tissue culture facilities. The other unfortunate, but undeniable fact is that all images are of very poor quality when viewed on standard PCs, whether desktop or laptop. I tried both, but the images were at best of advanced cartoon standard. The tutorial was well written and well planned, but also suffered seriously from the poor quality of the images; it would not be possible to learn how to diagnose or grade trachoma with images such as these.

    In conclusion, given the choice, I would prefer a simple manual written on paper, which would be more easily accessible, and considerably more informative than this expensively produced CD ROM.

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