MSci Genetics / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Principles of Infectious Disease

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL21192
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Principles of Infectious Disease will provide you with a broad understanding of the biology of microbial infections, with an emphasis on bacterial human infections. You will study the mechanisms of microbial pathogenicity, starting with pathogen transmission and entry into the host, progressing through adhesion and invasion, to cell and tissue damage and host responses to injury. The diseases studied will include tuberculosis, cholera, listeriosis, salmonellosis, gonorrhoea, pseudomembranous colitis and key fungal infections.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Microbes, Humankind and the Environment BIOL10532 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Fundamentals of Bacteriology BIOL21181 Co-Requisite Recommended
Immunology BIOL21242 Co-Requisite Recommended
BIOL21192 Pre-requisite is BIOL10532


To explore the fundamentals of how microorganisms cause disease and the interactions that occur between a pathogen and host during infection. To study the mechanisms of microbial pathogenicity (focussing mainly on bacteria), starting with pathogen transmission and entry into the host, progressing through adhesion, invasion and pathogen survival strategies within a host, to cell and tissue damage and host responses to infection. To gain a detailed understanding of the mechanisms of pathogenesis and disease for exemplary human pathogens.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:• Define the key host defences in preventing microbial infections and explain how they protect against bacterial pathogens.• Describe the strategies used by bacteria to penetrate host external defences and explain, using examples, the mechanisms used in host colonisation and/or invasion.• Describe, including examples, bacterial strategies for avoiding killing by phagocytes and explain how they function.• Describe bacterial strategies for evading complement and antibodies and explain the mechanisms involved.• Outline key factors that contribute to opportunistic infections.• Describe the burden of fungal infections in humans and the virulence mechanisms of key fungal pathogens• Define the structural features of bacterial products that contribute to the pathology of infectious disease (including endotoxin, exotoxins, lipoarabinommannan, pili, polysaccharide capsules, urease, invasins and secreted effector proteins. Use this information to explain how they function.• Illustrate the mechanisms of action of bacterial exotoxins. Compare and contrast their structures and mechanisms of action.• Explain the mechanisms of pathogenesis of selected human pathogens in detail (these representing paradigms of pathogen-host interactions) and analyse how these mechanisms promote survival within a host.• Describe the main classes of antibiotics and their targets and discuss examples of antibiotic resistance.• Interpret and analyse primary research papers.


•    Basic concepts of microbial pathogenicity and virulence
•    Colonisation & invasion of the host.
•    Host surface defences & bacterial mechanisms of colonisation & invasion
•    Diseases associated with colonisation via pili: uropathogenic Escherichia coli & Neisseria gonorrhoea
•    Encounter with innate & adaptive immunity: Phagocytes, complement, T & B lymphocytes & antibodies. Microbial strategies for overcoming innate & adaptive defences.
•    Fungal infections, including key human fungal pathogens & their virulence mechanisms
•    Introduction to toxin types & toxins in specific diseases (diphtheria, botulism, tetanus, cholera & whooping cough)
•    Selected human infectious diseases/emerging diseases in detail:
•    Mycobacterium tuberculosis & the disease TB
•    Diarrheagenic Escherichia coli
•    Salmonellosis: Salmonella enterica serovars Typhimurium & Typhi
•    Colonisation of the stomach mucosa by Helicobacter pylori
•    Intracellular survival & spread: Listeria monocytogenes & listeriosis
•    Clostridium difficile & pseudomembranous colitis
•    Borrelia burgdorferi & Lyme disease
Infectious disease treatment & prevention: Antibiotics & vaccines
eLearning Activity
•    An eLearning (ePBL) assessment based on a published research article will be delivered online through blackboard. This should be undertaken during week 5 of the course (deadline 4pm Friday week 6) and will form 15% of the overall assessment of the unit. 
•    Three MCQ based ‘in course’ tests will be delivered online via blackboard and in total will form 10% of the overall assessment of the unit
•    Lecture slides and other materials/activities that support the lecture material and assessments will be posted on Blackboard.



Employability skills

Analytical skills
Discussion of a research paper and e-learning exercise require students to analyse experimental data and interpret results.
Oral communication
Students encouraged to answer questions during lectures
Problem solving
e-learning questions based on problem solving
Discussion of a research paper and e-learning exercise focused on primary research papers. Students encouraged to read research papers and review articles.
Written communication
Short note and essay questions in examination

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 25%
Written exam 75%
2 hour on campus, closed book, written examination at the end of the unit: Essay format - 1 essay from a choice of 4 (75%). Set exercise 1: Online e-learning assignment based upon reading a research paper. Single online test regarding comprehension of the paper comprising 10 multiple answer and true/false questions) (15%). Set exercise 2: 3 x online MCQ tests based on lecture material (10 %) set at intervals during the course: Test 1 comprising 10 questions (2.5 %), test 2 comprising 15 questions (3.75%), test 3 comprising 15 questions (3.75 %).

Feedback methods

Feedback will be given on the eLearning ePBL and MCQ assessments as well as by end of semester exam marks. This will include: (i) formative individual feedback to all students regarding performance in the ePBL and MCQ activities, and (ii) general feedback on exam performance by releasing a document addressing general strengths and weaknesses of answers and how questions were answered, and (iii) feedback on exam performance will be given by a drop-in session run by the unit coordinator in semester 5 or by individual correspondence (written or verbal) upon request.In addition, oral feedback on a practice ePBL based on a research paper will be given in an interactive Q&A session. Students will also be provided with the opportunity (non-assessed) to write a practice exam essay/short answer prior to the exam and will be given individual formative feedback.

Recommended reading

Wilson, BA, Salyers, AA, Whitt, DD & Winkler, ME, Bacterial Pathogenesis: A Molecular approach (3rd edition), ASM Press, 2010, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18 & 19 (Recommended) Details of up-to-date relevant reviews will also be provided during the course as optional reading

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 4.5
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 73.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jennifer Cavet Unit coordinator

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