Scope of Medical Microbiology

Medical microbiology is the branch of microbiology that is primarily responsible for the laboratory diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases caused by pathogenic microorganisms. Medical microbiologists collaborate effectively with other health professionals and even the patients and their family members in order to provide optimal care of the patient. They also take part in the provision of clinical consultation services both within the hospital and even in the community especially as it relates to pathogenic microorganisms. And medical microbiologists apart from isolating and identifying the causative agents of infectious diseases also help the physicians to administer the appropriate therapy owing to the current rapid evolution of drug-resistant microbes.

Medical microbiology concerns itself with the group or class of microorganisms that cause diseases and other infections in human population. This branch of microbiology specifically deals with pathogenic microorganisms, their life cycle, reproduction and physiology among other factors, and how these could be exploited to provide solutions to the many diseases that these microbes cause in humans. Aside their notable usefulness, some microorganisms known as pathogens cause disease and it is the task of the medical microbiologist to isolate and identify disease-causing agents from clinically important specimens so that therapy can be properly guided.

Medical microbiologists also contribute to the development of vaccines, diagnostics and other measures that will help to contain the infectious diseases caused by microbes. They work in hospital laboratories, research institutions, in government agencies and even in the academia where they analyze medically important samples in order to isolate and identify the pathogen(s) that is responsible for a particular disease outbreak (Figure 1). They also conduct antimicrobial susceptibility studies on isolated microbes and give appropriate advice on the treatment cause to follow. Microbiological research as carried out by medical microbiologists will lead to the development of novel diagnostic tools to improve on the prompt detection of pathogenic strains including those that are multidrug resistant.

Medical microbiologists work in the hospitals, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions among other fields. Medical/clinical microbiologists collect and analyze specimens from a wide variety of body sites; and they distinguish pathogens from non-pathogens (i.e. beneficial microorganisms) and generate practicable data that help physicians and other healthcare providers to make the correct diagnosis and therapeutic choices for sick patients.

Figure 1: Illustration of a medical microbiologist performing cell culture experiment


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