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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

tubesMicrobes 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.

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.

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: Bacterial Powerhouses 

6.  Powering the bacterial cell through polymer breakdown

7.  Transport across the bacterial membrane: the importance of membrane proteins in bacterial growth

8.  Metabolic flux in Escherichia coli

9.  Pump it up: proton pumps and the chemiosmotic hypothesis

10.  ATP generation by a nanomolecular machine: the F1F0 ATP synthase

Module 3: Medical Microbiology 

11.  Symbiosis

12.  Impact of symbiosis on human health and disease

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

14.  Food-borne diseases

15.  Respiratory infections

16.  Sexually transmitted diseases

17.  Microbial virulence factors and their host targets

Module 4: Immunology

18.  Introduction to the immune system

19.  Antigen acquisition

20.  The major histocompatibility complex (MHC)

21.  Antigen presentation and costimulation

22.  T cells

23.  B cells

24.  Effector cells of the immune system

25. Immune tolerance

Module 5: Virology 

26.  An introduction to the diversity and abundance of viruses: there is more to viruses than a phage

27.  The emergence and evolution of viruses: where do new viruses come from?

28.  How do viruses transmit from host to host?

29.  Virus transmission within a host and the targeting of susceptible cells

30.  The principles of expression and replication of viruses with RNA genomes

31.  Viruses with DNA genomes and the concept of host manipulation

32.  Antiviral drugs: the targeting of key steps in viral replication

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 microbe infections. The labs will see you also learn 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%) - material from lectures 1-10; 40 MCQ
  2. Laboratory test (15%) - material from labs 1-4; 40 MCQ
  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 Wiley, Sherwood and Woolverton, 10th edition, 2017, McGraw-Hill Publishers

Recommended text:

Kuby Immunology, 7th edition, 2013, Palgrave Macmillan


Teaching staff

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.

For more information on this course, please contact Dr Judith Bateup.