The Human Body: Microbial Pathogens and Host Defense

The overall objectives are for students:

  • To become familiar with the biology of medically important microorganisms and to understand the mechanisms by which these organisms cause disease.
  • To gain an understanding of the phenomena and mechanisms associated with the normal immune response and the pathological consequences that result from aberrations. To understand host responses to infections, including the ways in which the response of the infected host can actually contribute to the clinical signs and symptoms of infection.
  • To develop an appreciation of the principles of pathogenesis of various etiologic agents, noting how the properties of each pathogen affect the ability of that organism to cause infection, and how those factors affect the outcome of pathogen:host interactions and determine the distinctive clinical course of infection. Also, to develop insight into the factors that contribute to pathogenesis, and to how the immune system responds and to how pathogens evolve to foil these immune mechanisms.
  • To become conversant in the 'language'; enabling students to gain understanding from the lecture notes, etc and to participate in discussions during the lectures and small group sessions.
  • To acquire a sufficient mastery to enable students to read and fully comprehend articles or papers on topics in the medical literature related to infectious diseases, immunology, and microbiology.
  • To gain an understanding of the various methods used to diagnose infections and auto-immune diseases.
  • To appreciate the need to obtain a thorough medical history; narrowing the list of possible etiologic agents, while sometimes uncovering the connection that points to less common infections among the list of differential diagnoses.


Considering the various disciplines represented within this block, more specific objectives include:

  • Students should become familiar with the general concepts of what viruses are and are not, and with the uniqueness of their replicative strategy.
  • Students should become familiar with each viral vaccine and antimicrobial therapy discussed, including their strengths and flaws.
  • Students should think critically about the biology of microorganisms, including: their structural components, their growth and physiology, their mechanisms of genetic exchange
  • Students should consider how the biological properties of microorganisms influence the susceptibility of the organisms to different classes of antibiotics, the development of antibiotic resistance and identification of organisms in the clinical laboratory
  • Students should consider how many of the clinical manifestations of parasitic disease derive from the basic principles of parasite replication.