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Study information

Molecular Basis of Infection

Module titleMolecular Basis of Infection
Module codeBIO3079
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Steve Michell (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Both bacterial and fungal pathogens pose a significant threat to human health, with infectious diseases remaining a leading cause of death worldwide. In this module we will explore the strategies adopted by bacterial and fungal 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, looking 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 research-led, drawing on the research experiences of the module contributors and the wider developments in the research field.

The programme of lectures will be complemented by two small group tutorials, each of which will take the form of an academic-led round-table discussion. These tutorials will provide an opportunity to critically assess original research articles related to module content, promoting your engagement with the research literature and your critical appraisal of research studies. Through these activities, the module aims to develop your research-level critical thinking skills in molecular microbiology, and build your confidence in sharing and discussing complex research ideas and findings. These tutorials will also form the basis of in-course summative assessment.

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

Through a combination of lectures and small group tutorials, the module will explore a range of topics relating to microbial infection, including:

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

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 Teaching20Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Small-group tutorials (2 x 1 hour)
Guided Independent Study60Lecture consolidation and associated reading
Guided Independent Study28Preparation of critique of research paper
Guided Independent Study10Tutorial preparation (2 x 5 hour)
Guided Independent Study30Exam revision

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Lecturer feedback during small group tutorial sessions 2 x 1 hour1-9, 11-14Oral
Feedback via ELE forumAd hoc1-14Online
Formative MCQ-style questions within lecturesAd hoc 1-14Online

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 x 1000 words1-14Written
Critique of research paper401000 words1-14Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay examinationEssay examination (60%)1-14August Ref/Def
Critique of research paperCritique of research paper (40%)1-14August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons that are approved by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. If deferred, the format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). The mark given for a deferred assessment 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 (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) and the module cannot be condoned, you will be required to complete a re-assessment for each of the failed components on the module. The format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). If you pass the module following re-assessment, your module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Relevant primary research articles and review articles that support individual lecture topics will be made available on ELE

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

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

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO2101 Advanced Microbiology

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date