Microbiology BSc/MSci

Grand Challenges in Medical Microbiology 4D option BIOL4222

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Infection and Immunity
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will discuss the challenges posed by bacterial pathogens and the difficulties that they represent in the healthcare setting. It will highlight problems of antimicrobial resistance, microbial evolution, infection surveillance, describe known virulence determinants and discuss many of the strategies currently used to prevent or treat these pathogens. It will specifically highlight new approaches that are being taken to address and overcome these problems.


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

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 this course is to develop an understanding of the factors that influence the anti-microbial resistance and virulence of bacterial pathogens and the challenges these organisms create within the healthcare setting. In particular, it will highlight the ability of bacteria to adapt to new environmental niches, resist current treatments and adapt to persist despite intervention by man. The course will also describe the steps being taken to improve drug and vaccine design in order to limit the impact of these diseases.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Examine the importance of genomic data in the assessment of infection outbreaks

■ 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;

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

■ Appraise the significance of microbial biofilm production and the role played by these structures in drug failure;

■ Examine alternative approaches to treatment including targeting of virulence factors and target led small drug design;

■ Evaluate the impact of vaccination on disease limitation and how new approaches to vaccine candidate identification provide opportunities to create improved future vaccines;

■ Examine the role and composition of microbial communities and the influence they appear to have on the health of the host;

■ Name and appraise newly-emerged and unusual pathogens and the diseases they cause.

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.