The scope of microbiology is all-encompassing, particularly in the fields of medical, pharmaceutical, industrial and environmental sciences to mention a few, where one aspect of microbiology is either applied or used as a fundamental criteria in the actualization of certain set goals. The field of Microbiology has tremendous possibilities and a very bright future, and intending or prospective students who are seeking or pursuing their career as prospective microbiologist has golden opportunities that await them upon graduation due to their invaluable relevance in virtually all works of life. There are many areas of specialization in microbiology as a graduate in this discipline owing that microbiology is both a basic and applied biological science. The scope of microbiology is enormous due to its critical relevance to many fields in the biological and medical sciences such as: human medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, nursing, medical laboratory, nanotechnology/nanomedicine, agriculture, biology, biotechnology, pharmaceutical industry, food, and water industry and so on.
According to the words of Albert Einstein “Imagination or Thinking is more important and powerful than Knowledge”. Microbiology is a field which has brought so many imaginations to reality especially in the development of devices (the microscope in particular) and other technologies that enable man to explore the unseen forms of life (i.e. the microbial world), and exploit same for his own benefit. Today, microbiologists have discovered new drugs, new foods, and even new diagnostic test kits to contain the excesses of infectious diseases, and many more discoveries are currently underway – which have all impacted humanity in countless positive ways. All this have been made possible due to the imaginative thought of microbiologists (which may be at par with other disciplines) to explore extreme areas of his environment and the intricate workings of microorganisms which are all geared towards making the society a better place. A renowned microbiologist, Louis Pasteur once said that: “In the field of observation, CHANCE favours only the prepared minds”. Microbiologists are a class of astute scientists who harness their knowledge of the microbial world in imaginative or inventive ways so as to develop novel products and services that will improve humanity.
Microbiology as a specialized area of the biological sciences concerns itself with the study of microorganisms i.e. living organisms too small to be seen by the naked eye except with the aid of a microscope. Microorganisms are very essential components of the ecosystem (i.e. the flora and fauna of the environment) and they affect life in countless number of ways both advantageously and disadvantageously. However, the benefits of microbes to mankind, animals and the environment far outweigh any detrimental effects that they are presumed to cause. Only a small proportion of microorganisms cause infectious diseases in humans compared to the many microscopic and macroscopic organisms which have innumerable benefits to mankind.
The field of microbiology is a collection of several distinctive techniques (inclusive of culturing of microbes either in vitro or in vivo, aseptic technique, pure culture technique, antimicrobial susceptibility studies, microscopic examination, and sterilization to mention a few); and as microbiologists, our most important task is to isolate microorganisms in their pure forms from a wild populations of cells or mixed culture (inclusive of environmental and hospital samples) in order to study them appropriately. An understanding of the basic techniques applied in microbiology as shall be elaborated in the subsequent sections, is vital for success in this field of biological sciences. In the beginning, much importance was placed on pathogenic microorganisms which cause a variety of diseases in man, animals and plants, and also cause the spoilage of food, wine and other beverages as well. However, innumerable beneficial microorganisms have now been recognized as being essential to the activities of man and that of his environment as well. In the soil and aquatic habitat, microorganisms help in transforming nutrients such as nitrogen, carbon, iron, and carbon et cetera to useful by-products that are beneficial to man, plants and other animals.
Microorganisms have also contributed in countless ways in the production of food for man and his animals; drugs to fight infectious diseases; vaccines to prevent infections/diseases; bread, wine and beverages as food; and other industrial and pharmaceutical products that are of immense relevance to man. In recent times, microbiologists have updated and given impetus to the study of biological systems through the development of recombinant DNA technology, monoclonal antibody, and biotechnological applications among others that have benefitted humanity in many ways especially as it relates to the combating of infectious diseases and developing novel products in medicine, pharmaceuticals and the food industry. Some of the areas of specialization for microbiologists are: teaching and research, bacteriology, virology, mycology, industrial microbiology, parasitology, algology, biotechnology, cell biology, environmental science, genetics, immunology, and scientific writing among others.
The field of microbiology is very fulfilling and rewarding, and graduates of microbiologists are of high demand in many industries and organizations. Countless number of options abounds for microbiology graduates through which they can harness their knowledge of the microbial world into more challenging, fulfilling, innovative and rewarding profession. Apart from its central role in advancing human health and welfare especially as it has to do with the detection and identification of disease-causing microorganisms; the field of microbiology have impacted and transformed other sectors of the economy in diverse unimaginable ways, and her scientific and technological advancements are the yardstick and foundation that are still fuelling research and development (R&D) in the biological and biomedical sciences around the world.
The roles of microbiology as a biological discipline on the advances in the healthcare industry, especially in the pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical sectors and the medical industry have led to enormous innovative researches and discoveries of various industrial and economic products that are beneficial to mankind especially ranging from novel drug development to the discovery of newer vaccines and even to the development of diagnostic tools or devices that have improved the prompt laboratory diagnosis of some infectious diseases of man, plants and animals. As a microbiologist, you are a very indispensable tool that is required to service humanity, plants, animals and the entire natural environment. The subsequent topics in this section of “GENERAL MICROBIOLOGY TOPICS” is to help the reader to have a better understanding of the different aspects of microbiology, so that informed choices of area of specialization can be decided upon.
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