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Medical Microbiology and Immunology


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor: Dr Brian Ho
  • Assessment: short in-class written tests and a lab-based problem set/report (40%) and a 2.5-hour examination (60%)

Module description

In this module we introduce you to a selection of microbial, viral and other pathogens and to the key immunological mechanisms deployed by the human body to defend against these. You will gain an understanding of mechanisms used by pathogens to evade the immune response, and of the immune system responses, both innate and acquired, that act to control infection. With respect to selected examples, you will learn about clinical manifestations of infection.

Laboratory sessions will introduce you to practical microbiology and immunotechniques.

Indicative syllabus

  • Pathogens as parasites: issues arising in the establishment, persistence and reproduction of infectious agents at the expense of the host
  • Bacteria, viruses and other microbes of importance to human health and disease
  • Innate immunity: phagocytosis; acute inflammatory responses; humoral mechanisms; extracellular killing
  • Adaptive immunity: B-cell and T-cell responses to antigenic stimuli
  • Acquisition of effector function by B-cells and T-cells and the roles of effector lymphocytes in immune responses
  • Laboratory: culturing bacteria and monitoring their growth in vitro; immunoassays

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • distinguish and classify a range of microorganisms, with specific emphasis on bacteria and viruses, describing key features of their life cycles, metabolism, and genetics that impact on their interactions with the immune system
  • discuss the co-evolution of microorganisms and host immune systems and apply this knowledge to explain the overall 'design' of the human immune system (e.g. by outlining the system of innate immunity versus that of specific acquired (adaptive) immunity
  • with respect to specific, named examples, describe how the innate and adaptive branches of the immune system cooperate to mount an effective immune response
  • in relation to specific, named examples, describe clinical manifestations of infection and explain how these may be therapeutically controlled
  • safely culture bacteria in the laboratory and perform selected techniques that employ antibodies as laboratory reagents.