Medical microbiology is a branch within the field of microbiology which focuses on microorganisms of medical interest. Medical microbiologists study organisms which can cause diseases in people, looking at the life cycle of such organisms, how they cause infections in humans, how they spread, what they do to the human body, and how they can be eradicated. People in this field may work in research labs studying microorganisms, or they may work in diagnostic labs, performing tests to identify disease-causing organisms in patients and making treatment recommendations.
Bacteria, fungi, protozoans, and viruses can all cause disease in humans. Humans have been colonized by microorganisms from the beginning of time, and microorganisms are constantly evolving and changing to thwart human attempts at controlling them. The field of medical microbiology is engaged with identifying new microorganisms, monitoring changes in rapidly mutating species, and dealing with ongoing challenges in microbiology, ranging from the development of resistance to antibiotics in bacteria to contamination of water supplies with protozoans.
Like other researchers in microbiology, medical microbiologists are interested in identifying and categorizing the organisms they see. This information can help people see what they are dealing with, and it can assist with the development of treatments. Understanding the relationship between organisms can also be important when researchers explore methods of transmission. The identification process can also include inquiries into the origin and history of an organism; learning where a flu virus developed, for example, can be important to understanding how an epidemic occurred.
In addition to being interested in microorganisms themselves, the field of medical microbiology is also concerned with immunology, looking at human defenses against such organisms and how they can be improved or bolstered. Researchers also study pathology, the course that disease takes in the body, and epidemiology, the science concerned with how and why diseases spread. Medical microbiologists have skills which can be applied to emerging disease outbreaks, ongoing problems with microorganisms, and a variety of other medical challenges.
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