Bacterial Virulence 4B option BIOL4221

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: School of Life Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will discuss the factors that influence the virulence of several named bacterial pathogens. The course will include descriptions of known virulence determinants, structures that indirectly influence pathogenesis, their evolution and gene regulation. Drawing on leading researchers in the field, students will have a detailed and up-to-date knowledge and understanding of our current understanding of what constitutes "virulence" and how this is studied. 


This option is assigned to block S2-B. There is normally 3 hours of teaching on Tuesdays.

Requirements of Entry

Normally, only available to final-year School of Life Sciences students in a Degree Group B (Biomolecular Sciences group) or Degree Group D (Infection & Immunity group) programme. Visiting students may be allowed to enrol, at the discretion of the School of Life Sciences Chief Adviser and the Course Coordinator. 

Excluded Courses



The course will be assessed by a 2-hour examination (75%) and in-course assessment consisting of a critical analysis of a manuscript (25%). 

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The aim of the course is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence the virulence of bacterial pathogens. This course will highlight the evolution of virulence traits, their regulation at the genetic level and their influence on the capacity of bacteria to cause disease.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

■ Judge the limitations of the term 'virulence factor' in the context of bacterial pathogenesis;

■ Examine how the structure of specific bacterial proteins such as toxins, relate to their function;

■ Illustrate, with reference to relevant examples, virulence traits that are known to influence pathogenesis;

■ Evaluate how nutrient uptake and bacterial cell wall modifications can influence growth and survival in the host;

■ Judge the importance of bacterial metabolism and growth within different ecological niches and appraise how bacterial metabolites can subsequently alter growth of other bacteria within that niche;

■ Examine how bacterial sensing of the environment can influence regulation of the expression of virulence genes; 

■ Examine the contribution of genetic exchange on the evolution and spread of virulence traits within bacteria;

■ Evaluate the influence of the host innate and acquired immunity on bacterial virulence. 

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.