Microbiology deals with diseases caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Microbiologists have roles both in the laboratory and directly in patient care. It offers involvement in a spectrum of activities ranging across:
- basic laboratory science
- direct patient care
- public health
- infection control
- research and teaching
- business management
The last two decades have seen enormous change in Medical Microbiology. 'New' organisms (Helicobacter pylori, HIV, Hepatitis C virus) have been discovered and characterised. 'New' infectious diseases (AIDS, Lyme disease, and Legionnaires' disease) have been described. 'Old' infections (tuberculosis, malaria, and pertussis)have re-emerged as major threats and have become increasingly resistant to previously effective antibiotics (MRSA, Streptococcus pneumoniae, VRE).
Over this time, advances in technology and molecular medicine (automation, polymerase chain reaction) have added greatly to the Microbiologist's diagnostic armamentarium. At the same time however, Microbiology remains very much a 'hands-on' discipline. In many ways it is an art as much as a science, and one in which an individual pathologist's experience, judgment and interpretive skills are pivotal.
Clinical aspects involve control of outbreaks of infectious disease and dealing with the problems of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.