Pharmaceutical microbiology is the branch of microbiology that focuses on all aspects of pharmacy especially as it relates to the manufacture and quality control of pharmaceuticals such as drugs. Microbiological applications are tremendously applied in the pharmaceutical industry to produce a wide range of products including hormones, antibiotics, water for injections, steroids and so on which are used for the treatment and management of both infectious and non-communicable diseases. Irrespective of the suffering of patients due to infectious diseases caused by pathogenic microorganism, healthcare delivery has tremendously improved worldwide owing to the availability of effective medicines and vaccines with which to treat and prevent these diseases. Pharmaceutical companies around the world are investing heavily in research and development (R&D); and they are also in high demand for pharmaceutical microbiologists due to the relevance of this branch of microbiology in the manufacture of safe, effective and good-quality drugs.
Pharmaceutical microbiology also deals with the controlling of microorganisms that cause spoilage of pharmaceutical products, and this area of microbiology is also keenly interested in harnessing the metabolic activities of microorganisms to develop novel and potent medicines and other pharmaceuticals for the health sector. This branch of microbiology is a burgeoning area in the biological sciences due to its importance to not just the health and pharmaceutical sector, but also the central role that it plays in ensuring the improvement of world health and disease prevention. The production of novel drugs from herbal plants and other natural products are also the subject of pharmaceutical microbiologists.
Water microbiology is the branch of microbiology that ensures that the water supply to homes, industries, towns and local communities are of good quality and free from water-borne pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Vibrio cholerae amongst others. Water microbiologists work in water distribution and purification companies where they analyze water from reservoirs and river sources to check for their quality and microbial load before distribution to homes and industries. They also ensure that sewage and other industrial wastes are properly treated before release into water ways and that they are not potential causes of water-borne diseases. Another aspect of water microbiology is aquatic microbiology which deals with the study of microorganisms and how their metabolic activities could be exploited to improve the health of man and animals in the fresh, marine and estuarine habitat.
Water borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery are among the child killer diseases; and these infections are prevalent in places where environmental sanitation is poor. It is mainly the task of the water microbiologists to ensure that the water distribution channels are free from water-borne pathogens; and that water meant for domestic use and for other human purposes such as in the industry for manufacturing are free from pathogenic microorganisms. Water microbiologists examining and culturing water samples for detection and isolation of water-borne pathogens (e.g. Vibrio cholerae). Escherichia coli is an indicator of water contamination; and its presence in water meant for domestic usage especially drinking water and other sources of water is an indication of possible faecal contamination either from emptying of sewage into the water ways or from direct human defaecation in the water.
Immunology is an aspect of microbiology that concerns itself with the study of the immune system in man and animals. The immune system is made up of cells, tissues and organs that work together in a cooperative manner to protect human host’s from or against the invasion of foreign substances and microbes. They also help to eliminate these foreign molecules and thus minimize their deleterious effects in the body. Immunologists study the immune system (composed of innate and acquired immunity) to better understand it and proffer practical explanation as to how these could be exploited to contain some infectious diseases and their causative agents as well as develop strong and sustainable preventive measures against the acquisition of infections e.g. the production of potent vaccines for various infectious diseases. Vaccines as shall be seen later in this textbook are vital tools in clinical medicine, and they are mainly used to prevent disease occurrence in susceptible human population through the process of immunization/vaccination. Immunologists work in the government, healthcare sector, research institutions and even ion the academia where their knowledge of the body’s immune system are brought to bear to unravel some of the mysteries of infectious diseases especially in humans.
Molecular Microbiology and Genetics: Microbiologists in this area of molecular microbiology and genetics focus on the nature of genetic manipulation and how it regulates the development and function of cells and organisms. The use of microorganisms has been very helpful in understanding gene function. Microbial genetics play important role in applied microbiology by helping to produce new microbial strains that are more efficient in synthesizing useful products. With tools and techniques in molecular microbiology, microbiologists can detect pathogens more rapidly and accurately from clinical and/or environmental samples based on the genetic signatures of the organisms. Generally, this aspect of microbiology studies the genetic makeup of microorganisms (DNA and RNA inclusive), their heredity patterns and variations that occur among members of the same species.
Knowledge of the genetic makeup of microorganisms especially those that are multidrug resistant in nature (e.g. bacteria producing extended spectrum beta-lactamases and metallo beta-lactamases) will help to provide clues as to how the emergence and spread of disease-causing microbes particularly those that are drug resistant could be monitored and contained. Since the genome is mainly the control center of the cell, molecular microbiologists (in whose duty it is to study microbes at the molecular level) play critical role in helping the medical community to unravel the genetic basis of some infectious and non-infectious diseases that affect humanity.
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