SPECIALIZATIONS OF MICROBIOLOGY

  • Bacteriology: Bacteriology is simply defined as the study of bacteria. Bacteriologists are microbiologists that are devoted to the study of bacteria especially those that are pathogenic i.e., disease-causing bacteria. They work in hospitals, research institutions, veterinary centers, university, government agencies and other areas where pathogenic bacteria are the microorganisms of interest.
  • Virology: Virology is defined as the study of viruses. Microbiologists that exclusively study viruses, their properties and the diseases they cause are called virologists. Virologists work in hospitals, research institutions, educational institutions (as educators and researchers), in government agencies and in pharmaceutical companies where there knowledge about viruses are harnessed to solve the problem of infectious diseases caused by viral agents.
  • Parasitology: Parasitology is the study of parasites or worms and even insects or arthropods that act as transmission vehicles or vectors for infectious diseases and their causative agents in both human and animal populations. Another related area to parasitology is protozoology which is the study of parasites and how their association with plants, animals and humans can cause infection or disease. Protozoologists study protozoa or parasites.
  • Mycology: Mycology is simply defined as the study of fungi including yeasts, moulds, mushrooms and slime moulds. Microbiologists that exclusively study fungi are called mycologists. They are found in the industries, hospitals, food industries, the academia and pharmaceutical companies where their services as it relates to fungi are required.  
  • Algology/phycology: Algology or phycology is defined as the study of algae. It is noteworthy that algae consist of both microscopic (invisible) and macroscopic (visible) forms. But due to the scope of microbiology, both macroscopic and microscopic algae of utmost importance to algologists (i.e., microbiologists that study algae) are usually studied in the field of microbiology.
  • Geochemical microbiology: Geochemical microbiology is the branch of microbiology that studies the applications of microorganisms in the mining of metals, crude oil and other natural resources from their natural sources or the ground. Microorganisms are currently being exploited in a number of mining and oil recovery activities. They have also been used to prospect for oil, gas and coal in areas deemed to be low in these resources. Geochemical microbiology can also be called geomicrobiology because this aspect of microbiology studies the interactions between microbes, minerals and other earth materials. It concerns itself with how microbes eat rocks. Geomicrobiology is a combination of two disciplines, geology and microbiology.
  • Aero microbiology: Aero microbiology is largely concerned with the role of microorganisms in the air and in the contamination and spoilage of food, wine and beverages. It also specializes in the monitoring of dissemination of air-borne diseases in plant, animal and human populations. Aero microbiologists also evaluate the quality and quantity of air available for both human and animal activities; and the significance of bioaerosols in causing morbidity and mortality in human populations. Bioaerosols are microbial suspensions or airborne particles produced by microbes including fungi, bacteria and viruses, and which are mainly found in the atmosphere. They are composed of a variety of microbes and particles inclusive of live, dormant and dead microbes as well as other microbial toxins and other high molecular weight compounds that are of public health importance. Continued uncontrolled exposure of humans to these bioaerosols especially those working in certain occupations (for example, composters, farmers, abattoir workers, builders and construction workers) that predispose them to significant accumulation or inhalation of toxic biological agents (bioaerosols) are at a higher risk of becoming ill from exposure to bioaerosols. Most infectious disease agents are dispersed through the air in aerosols or in their spore or dormant state through suspensions of dust particles in the air; and this is particularly the case for pathogenic fungi and other microbes that are mostly dispersed as spores through contaminated dust particles in the air.  
  • Exo microbiology: Though still in its infancy, exo microbiology or astro microbiology is the branch of microbiology that specializes in the exploration of microbial life in the outer space. This aspect of microbiology studies microbial interactions in space and other space-like niches.

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Further reading

Brooks G.F., Butel J.S and Morse S.A (2004). Medical Microbiology, 23rd edition. McGraw Hill Publishers. USA. Pp. 248-260.

Madigan M.T., Martinko J.M., Dunlap P.V and Clark D.P (2009). Brock Biology of microorganisms. 12th edition. Pearson Benjamin Cummings Publishers. USA. Pp.795-796.

Nester E.W, Anderson D.G, Roberts C.E and Nester M.T (2009). Microbiology: A Human Perspective. Sixth edition. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc, New York, USA.

Prescott L.M., Harley J.P and Klein D.A (2005). Microbiology. 6th ed. McGraw Hill Publishers, USA. Pp. 296-299.

Singleton P and Sainsbury D (1995). Dictionary of microbiology and molecular biology, 3d ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Slonczewski J.L, Foster J.W and Gillen K.M (2011). Microbiology: An Evolving Science. Second edition. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, New York, USA.

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