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Bacteriology is defined as the study of bacteria. Medical Bacteriology is a branch of medical microbiology that is concerned with the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases caused by bacterial pathogens. It is simply the study of bacteria that are of medical importance (i.e., bacteria that cause diseases in human beings and animals). These bacteria that cause disease or infections in humans or animals are called pathogenic bacteria. Medical bacteriology is the study of the interactions between pathogenic bacteria and the human body as well as that of other animals and mammals that culminate in the development of infectious diseases in them. It also encompasses the pathogenicity, virulence and laboratory detection as well as the control and the prevention of the diseases caused by the pathogenic bacteria. There are plethora of bacteria that cause different diseases and infections in humans, as well as in animals.


Microbiologists study bacteria as well as other microorganisms in order to gain basic understanding about their physiology, reproduction and metabolic activities so that they can understand the diseases they cause and develop practicable ways to control them, thereby preventing their emergence and spread within a given human or animal population. Prior to the discovery of antimicrobial agents (antibiotics in particular), pathogenic bacteria have caused many deaths and infections in human populations. Some bacterial diseases such as plague, tuberculosis (TB), diarrhea, dysentery, pneumonia, diphtheria, cholera and typhoid fever caused epidemics and pandemics across the globe because they killed mankind in their thousands. But due to the discovery and development of antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents for the therapeutic management of these infectious (communicable) diseases coupled with improvement in   water supply and environmental sanitation around the world; humanity started to witness a drastic fall in some of these world epidemic diseases. However, some of these diseases (e.g., TB) which were once taught to be conquered by man have now re-emerged in the form of multidrug resistant infections, and some have caused some appreciable number of morbidity and mortality across the world.

Today, there is plethora of multidrug resistant strains of some pathogenic bacteria including Mycobacterium, Staphylococci, Escherichia, Klebsiella, and Pseudomonas which are defiant even in the face of antimicrobial onslaught; and a handful of these pathogenic microorganisms are responsible for majority of nosocomial infections and even community-acquired infections. About one-third of all deaths in the world today are caused by infectious disease agents including pathogenic bacteria, and the situation is worse in developing countries where environmental sanitation, as well as personal hygiene and access to quality healthcare services are still in a comatose or pitiable state. Aside from this, a fall in the body’s natural defense against infectious diseases (i.e., the host’s immune system) which could be due to malnutrition and other predisposing factors such as protracted illness and cancer can also increase people’s chances of becoming infected by pathogenic bacteria.

Further reading

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

Gilligan P.H, Shapiro D.S and Miller M.B (2014). Cases in Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Third edition. American Society of Microbiology Press, USA.

Madigan M.T., Martinko J.M., Dunlap P.V and Clark D.P (2009). Brock Biology of Microorganisms, 12th edition. Pearson Benjamin Cummings Inc, USA.

Mahon C. R, Lehman D.C and Manuselis G (2011). Textbook of Diagnostic Microbiology. Fourth edition. Saunders Publishers, USA.

Patrick R. Murray, Ellen Jo Baron, James H. Jorgensen, Marie Louise Landry, Michael A. Pfaller (2007). Manual of Clinical Microbiology, 9th ed.: American Society for Microbiology.

Wilson B. A, Salyers A.A, Whitt D.D and Winkler M.E (2011). Bacterial Pathogenesis: A molecular Approach. Third edition. American Society of Microbiology Press, USA.

Woods GL and Washington JA (1995). The Clinician and the Microbiology Laboratory. Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R (eds): Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 4th ed. Churchill Livingstone, New York.

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