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Microbiology Logo Microbiology & Immunology
Te Tari Moromoroiti me te Ārai Mate

MICR 221: Microbes to Medicine

First Semester - 18 points

Course prescription

Fundamental concepts in microbiology, building from the characteristics of microorganisms, through the handling and containment of microorganisms, to medical microbiology and immunology.

Course overview

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  • Microbes are all around us, all over us and all over every surface on earth. Microbes compose greater than 50% of life forms on our planet and yet it is estimated that only 1% have been identified and studied. We can’t live without microbes and they benefit our lives immensely.
  • Many of the microbes that surround us can cause disease and our immune system helps protect us from these microbes. The specialised cells of the immune system work as key defenders, protecting us from infection and disease.
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  • MICR 221 will introduce you to the wonderful world of Microbiology and Immunology. You will learn about the immune system and the key cells and pathways of the immune system and also learn about the world of microbes. 
  • The labs will teach you essential skills in handling and manipulating microorganisms and include looking at the treatment of microbial infections with different pharmaceutical preparations.

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  • MICR 221 is essential if you want to carry on in Microbiology but it is also a useful addition to a wide variety of courses.

Lecture course overview

MICR 221 is a 32-lecture course that gives you a general introduction to Microbiology and Immunology. Lectures cover the following areas:

Module 1: Microbial Growth and Control

1.  Physical and chemical requirements of microbial growth

2.  Bacterial nutrition

3.  The two sides of bacterial endospores

4.  Physical control methods

5.  Chemical control methods

Module 2: Bacteria at the Aerobic-Anaerobic Interface

6.  Bacterial persistence and surviving an environment in flux

7.  The balance of anabolic and catabolic reactions

8.  Principles of bacterial aerobic cellular respiration

9.  Respiration without oxygen

10.  Bacterial ATP synthesis and how it became the newest target-space for antibiotics

Module 3: Immunology

11.  Introduction to the immune system

12.  Antigen recognition

13.  The major histocompatibility complex (MHC)

14.  Antigen presentation and costimulation

15.  T cells

16.  B cells

17.  Effector cells and immune tolerance

Module 4: Virology

18.  Introduction to viruses: what are they and what is their composition?

19.  Viruses and their hosts: the organisms viruses infect and the virus life cycle in a host cell

20.  Virus multiplication I: the replication of viruses with DNA genome

21.  Virus multiplication II: the replication of viruses with RNA genome

22.  Viruses and diseases: types of viral infections and human diseases viruses cause

23.  Virus emergence, evolution, and classification: where do new viruses come from and how are they classified?

24. Virus prevention and control: antiviral drugs and vaccines

Module 5: Medical Microbiology

25.  Symbiosis

26.  Impact of symbiosis on human health and disease

27.  Impact of microbe, host, and medicine on disease

28.  Food-borne diseases

29.  Respiratory infections

30.  Sexually transmitted diseases

31.  Microbial virulence factors and their host targets

Lab course overview

The MICR 221 paper includes a 6-lab course. The labs aim to teach you fundamental laboratory skills and reinforce concepts discussed in lectures. You will learn basic bacterial culture techniques, how to grow bacteria, how to estimate bacterial numbers and how to identify bacteria.  You will gain microscope and staining skills and visualise microbes using the microscope. The labs will also see you look at medically important microbes, including a look at the bacteria on your own skin and a look at pharmaceutical products that can be used to control microbial infections. The labs will cover eukaryotic microbes such as fungi, protozoa and algae. 

The MICR 221 lab course covers:

  • Lab 1: Microbiological techniques
  • Lab 2: Identification of bacteria
  • Lab 3: Enumerating bacteria
  • Lab 4: Eukaryotic microorganisms and viruses
  • Lab 5: Skin infections
  • Lab 6: Gastrointestinal microorganisms


  1. Lecture test (15%)
  2. Laboratory test (15%)
  3. A 3-hr final exam (70%)

Course prerequisites


CELS 191; CHEM 191 or CHEM 111; 36 further 100-level points

Recommended preparation:

HUBS 191

Recommended concurrent study:

GENE 221


Essential text:

Prescott's Microbiology by Willey, Sandman and Wood, 12th edition, 2023, McGraw-Hill Publishers

Recommended text for Immunology module:

Kuby Immunology, 8th edition (2019), Palgrave Macmillan. Note, Kuby Immunology is also  the recommended text for those wishing to continue immunology in MICR334.


For more information

View the details of this paper on the University of Otago website

Students are encouraged to contact staff by email to make arrangements for a time to discuss course-related matters.