The course provides a foundation in the fundamental molecular microbiology that underlies the ongoing and increasing challenge of bacterial infectious disease in healthcare, diagnosis and treatment. The course will equip you to progress to employment in biomedical science, or to embark on a postgraduate research degree in a related field.
The course is set within the context of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham which brings together experts in areas of microbiology from fundamental science of model organisms to translational research on key pathogens of medical and veterinary importance.
Continuing developments in infection including increasing resistance of pathogens to antibiotics and the emergence of ‘superbugs’ such as Clostridium difficile and E. coli O157, and the increasing problem of tuberculosis as a worldwide killer disease, emphasise the need for experts in this field now and into the future.
You will take six taught modules and in addition will carry out a 12 week research project. The project will be conducted within a research group in the Institute of Microbiology and Infection, the School of Biosciences or another part of the University. You will be working alongside research scientists on an original research topic integrated with the ongoing work of the group
1. Core concepts and skills in Microbiology (10 credits)
This module acts as a refresher on the fundamentals of molecular and cellular microbiology. You will have the opportunity to develop key quantitative, analytical and critical analysis skills. It will also include important aspects of working in the laboratory and how to handle microorganisms safely.
2. Medical microbiology practice and applications (30 credits)
The module will introduce you to pathogenic microorganisms that cause human diseases including bacterial, viral and fungal diseases, and diseases caused by eukaryotic microorganism. The module will take a systematic approach looking at diseases of the respiratory system, urinogenital system, gastrointestinal tract, and at skin, wound and blood-brain infections. Additionally, the module will build on research strengths in the Institute of Microbiology and Infection by highlighting examples such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and enteric diseases. While emphasis will be on the mechanisms, diagnostics and prevention of microbial disease, the module will also cover clinical components of medical microbiology including hospital acquired infections, and the clinical aspects of drug resistance taught by practicing clinical microbiologists from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
3. Host-Pathogen interactions (20 credits)
In this module you will be introduced to several key concepts in understanding host-pathogen interactions, including: virulence, the evolution of virulence and the Red Queen hypothesis, pathogen lifestyles, such as intracellular parasitism and latency and genetic variation in hosts and pathogens
4. Antibiotics, Microbial Surfaces and Surface Interactions. (20 credits)
This module will cover the key elements present at the microbial surface, and relate these in part to antibiotic targets. The threat of antibiotic resistance will be covered in detail and provide the student with a thorough understanding of both drug target and resistance mechanisms.
5. Omics of Pathogens (20 credits)
Our understanding of Microbes has been revolutionised by our ability to sequence their genomes and by other ‘omics’ techniques. This module will cover sequencing technology, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metagenomics and explore how these have advanced our understanding of microbial pathogens. You will consider issues which arise from the need to analyse large data sets and will gain hands on experience of bioinformatics tools.
6. Optional Module (20 Credits)
You have one optional module; you choose between:
Applied and Environmental Microbiology: The diversity of microbial lifestyles and communities will be explored, both in the biosphere at large and in relationships with host species including humans. Then the impact of microbes on public health will be dissected, focusing on emerging infections and the crucial issue of antibiotic resistance. Finally, the applications of micro-organisms in biotechnological and industrial processes will be considered, with a detailed consideration of novel approaches to design of new antibiotics.
Bacterial Gene Expression: This module covers the molecular biology of nucleic acids and proteins involved in gene expression and regulation in relation to metabolism, DNA replication, transposition, differentiation and phage development in bacterial systems. Particular attention is paid to the process of transcription by RNA polymerase, the sigma factors in controlling transcription specificity and the way that sequential expression of sigma factors determines cascades of gene expression during differentiation.