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

MICR 337: Virology

Second Semester - 18 points

Course prescription

Molecular aspects of viral entry, replication, and assembly in host cells. Mechanisms by which viruses manipulate the hosts to multiply and cause disease.

"The labs were very enjoyable and the lectures were very detailed" - MICR 337 student, 2019.

Course overview

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  • Viruses are microscopic organisms that cause serious human, animal, and plant diseases worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by a virus. Therefore, learning about the viruses is relevant more than ever. There is, and will be a constant need for experienced virologists who can identify viruses, diagnose viral diseases, and develop new and innovative antiviral drugs and vaccines. 

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  •  MICR337 is the only 300 level course in a New Zealand university that is fully dedicated to in-depth learning about viruses and their interactions with their host. From this paper, you will acquire the knowledge essential for a career in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of viral diseases.




Course objectives: 

  1. Provide the molecular understanding of how viruses with different structures and genomes enter, replicate, assemble, and release from the host cell.
  2. Examine the systemic effects of viral infection on the host and highlight the mechanisms viruses employ to evade host defence.
  3. Integrate information from virus replication and virus-host interactions and provide the basis of vaccine and antiviral strategies.
  4. Develop hands-on research experience with virological methods and techniques.
  5. Promote independent thinking and enable research and critical assessment of a topic. Foster oral communication skills and develop ability to work as a team.

Lecture course overview

Two lectures per week for 13 teaching weeks of the second semester.

Lecture time: Thursdays and Fridays at 13.00-13:50

Lab course overview

In the laboratory, students will isolate and purify their own virus from an environmental sample. Then, determine its growth characteristics and host range, and identify it by visualizing it under an electron microscope. Lab classes are compulsory, failure to attend and complete the lab classes means students may not sit the final exam.

Group presentations and essay overview

This is a self-learning module. Students will research a given virology topic on their own, give a short group presentation to the class, and write an individual 1000-word essay.

Four group presentation sessions in Thursday and Friday lecture slots during the last week of July and/or first week of August. One of the presentation sessions run for 100 minutes, but the clashes with other lectures can be worked around. Individual essay submissions are due on third Monday of August. 


a)     Presentation and essay (10% of final grade). Self-learning exercise on topics in virology. The group will present their topic to the class and each student will write and submit an individual essay that will be marked. Three example topics to provide an indication of the type of question you can expect are;

  1. What is the best polio vaccine and what are the major barriers to final eradication of poliovirus?
  2. Bats are reservoirs of human viruses; should we be worried?
  3. Hepatitis C antivirals: why do we need them, what is available, and what is being developed?

b)     Two laboratory assignments (20% of final grade). These are based on the laboratory experiments. Due on first and second Thursday of October.

c)     Final examination, 3 hour (70% of final grade). The exam format is “answer 3 either/or questions”. Scheduled as per University calendar.


Students must achieve a 50% average to pass MICR 337

Course prerequisites

MICR 221, MICR 223 or GENE 211


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


Principles of Virology, Flint et al (2nd, 3rd, and 4th edition); Introduction to Modern Virology, Dimmock et al (6th and 7th edition); Web-based resources.

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 Professor Vernon Ward.