A program that focuses on the scientific study of pathogenic bacteria that are significant factors in causing or facilitating human disease. Includes instruction in the pathogenesis of bacterial diseases, bacterial genetics and physiology, bacterial anatomy and structure, antigens, bacterial reproduction, bacterial adhesion, phagocytes, and the identification of new or mutated bacteria and bacterial agents.

Careers in medical microbiology or bacteriology focus on applying knowledge of bacteria and other microbes to human health.

Microbes may be small, but they can have a big impact on human health. Medical microbiologists work with these tiny organisms to determine their impact on human health; some work with bacteria that cause diseases, while others look for ways to harness certain microbes into resisting illness. There are many areas within medical microbiology, like medical mycology - scientists in this discipline specialize in diseases and conditions caused by fungi, molds, or yeasts - or clinical virology, which deals with diseases caused by viruses.

The ever-present microscope remains the best way to look at microbes, but some scientists, particularly those involved with medical research involving viruses or proteins, use visualization softwares to model potential scenarios without directly involving a specimen. Techniques for working with microbes are evolving, and new therapies are emerging at an unprecedented rate.

Work in medical microbiology and bacteriology may include...

  • Observing the structure and activity of bacteria
  • Conducting diagnostic tests
  • Using specialized equipment and techniques to observe and manipulate microbes
  • Collecting, interpreting, and analyzing data
  • Providing clinical care for microbial conditions

Most medical microbiologists work in hospitals, which often have a division dedicated to diagnosing infectious diseases caused by microbes. These specialists run tests and occasionally work with patients, providing diagnostics and medical care. Medical microbiologists with clinical training may work as diagnosticians or specialists treating patients directly through referrals. Many medical microbiologists work in public health or with various government agencies that conduct research on infectious disease; they may influence policy or track down the source of a disease. Others work in medical research, pharmaceutical development, or medical specialty sales, or they may teach, lecture, or publish.

Getting a Bachelor's degree in microbiology is a great way to get started in the field. Students should take coursework in biochemistry, cell biology, microbial genetics, and virology, as well as statistics and human physiology. Many positions are available to graduates of these programs, especially technician and lab assistant roles. Those who want to study further tend to pursue Master's degrees or PhDs, which allow for independent research opportunities. Some aspiring medical microbiologists attend medical school, and many opt for dual-degree MD/PhD programs that provide both research and clinical experience.

So many conditions can be attributed to microbial activity! If you want to save lives and promote health from behind a microscope, maybe a career in medical microbiology is the way to do it.

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