Medical microbiology is a specialty of pathology that studies microorganisms and their role in the development and spread of infectious diseases. Microorganisms that cause infection are also called microbial pathogens. The main microbial pathogens that medical microbiologists study are bacteria, fungus, and viruses. Medical microbiologists are physicians who seek to identify harmful pathogens and to protect patients from developing infections that may significantly endanger human health.
Once a person or host is exposed to a pathogen, the pathogen may replicate, spread throughout the body, and release illness-inducing toxins. The immune system will attempt to attack these infectious pathogens; however, some pathogens may not be eliminated. Frequent conditions that are caused by microbial pathogens include:
Medical microbiologists examine patient specimens in a hospital microbiology laboratory or specialized microbiology laboratory setting. Their research data and results can effectively diagnose patients with certain infectious diseases, allowing patients to receive appropriate treatment. If a medical microbiologist finds evidence of infection from a patient specimen, an antimicrobial therapy treatment such as antibiotic medication may be prescribed. Medical microbiologists' responsibilities include:
In addition to diagnosing patients, medical microbiologists may research the nature of existing and new microbial pathogens. Medical microbiologists may determine a pathogen's risks, path of transmission, and advise epidemiologists in implementing appropriate preventative measures. Medical microbiologists may work with pathologists, infectious disease specialists, immunologists, clinical laboratory scientists, virologists, and cell biologists.