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Molecular Basis of Infection

Module titleMolecular Basis of Infection
Module codeBIO3079
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Alan Brown (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Both bacterial and fungal pathogens pose a significant threat to human health. In this module we will explore the strategies adopted by pathogens that allow them to gain entry into a host and subsequently survive within the host environment. In addition, we will explore the role of microbial effectors that subvert host functions and cause symptoms of disease. You will gain insight into how knowledge of the molecular basis of pathogenicity can enable strategies for the control of infectious diseases, including vaccines and novel antimicrobials.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of the module is to provide you with a grounding in the molecular basis of infection, taking a look at the process of pathogenesis from the perspective of the pathogen. Focusing on both bacterial and fungal pathogens, the topics presented will increase your understanding of the molecular basis of microbial entry and survival within mammalian hosts, as well as how microbes cause damage to the host through the actions of toxins and secretion systems.

The module content is presented in a series of lectures and research seminars that will give you a flavour of the research experiences of the main contributors. In addition, three small group tutorials will provide an opportunity to critically assess original research articles that relate to module content. The aim is for you to engage with original research literature, promoting your critical thinking skills.

Graduate attributes: as part of this module you will develop research level critical thinking skills in molecular microbiology, and learn to communicate complex ideas to both groups and individuals.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Outline and critically evaluate the mechanisms by which fungal and bacterial pathogens enter hosts and subsequently survive within host tissues
  • 2. Discuss the pathogenicity factors that permit microbes to cause infection in specific hosts
  • 3. Outline and critically evaluate the regulation of pathogenicity factors in bacteria and fungi
  • 4. Compare and contrast the molecular events associated with the survival of fungal and bacterial pathogens within the mammalian host
  • 5. Discuss how bacterial pathogens deliver effector molecules into host cells, and the range of damaging effects that they elicit
  • 6. Critically compare the ways in which fungal and bacterial pathogens modulate the host response to infection
  • 7. Evaluate the potential to control disease as a result of understanding the molecular basis of infection

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of molecular biology and microbiology with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles
  • 9. Analyse in detail essential facts and theory in a subdiscipline of the biosciences
  • 10. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 11. With limited guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis and enquiry within the biosciences

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 12. Communicate effectively (orally and/or in written work) arguments, evidence and conclusions in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 13. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 14. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data with very limited guidance

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Through a combination of lectures, research seminars and small group tutorials, the module will explore the following topics in microbial infection:

  • Microbial entry and survival within mammalian hosts
  • Microbial pathogenicity, including regulatory networks that control virulence
  • Microbial stress responses
  • Bacterial toxins and secretion systems, and their role in disease
  • Immunomodulation by fungal and bacterial pathogens

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching19Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching3Tutorials
Guided Independent Study28Preparation of literature review
Guided Independent Study15Tutorial preparation
Guided Independent Study85Guided reading of literature / personal revision


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Small group tutorial sessions (10 students per group)3 x 1 hour1-9, 11-14Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay examination602 hoursAllWritten
Literature review401500 wordsAllWritten


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay examinationEssay examinationAllAugust Ref/Def
Literature reviewLiterature reviewAllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary research literature and review articles chosen by the module co-ordinators and students as required. Text books for background information:

  • Madigan MT, Martinko JM, Bender KS, Buckley DH, & Stahl DA (2014). Brock Biology of Microorganisms, 14th edition (Pearson).
  • Willey JM, Sherwood LM, Woolverton CJ (2014). Prescott’s Microbiology, 9th edition (McGraw-Hill).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Bacteria, fungi, pathogenicity, virulence, molecular biology, infection

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO2078 Medical and General Microbiology or BIO2094 Molecular Microbiology

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date