SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHC526368
Module Leader Ryan Kean
School School of Health and Life Sciences
Subject Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • B (January start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Equivalent SCQF level 9 in Biological Sciences or equivalent subject.

Summary of Content

This module examines at an advanced level, the current understanding of the molecular mechanisms employed by microbial pathogens of humans in establishing infectious diseases and will focus on an in-depth appreciation on the molecular cell biology of the host-pathogen relationship and therapeutic strategies. Students should gain an appreciation of the application of molecular microbiology to aspects of infectious agents including mode of action and clinical consequences of microbial toxins, intracellular antiviral mechanisms employed by eukaryotic cells and mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance and potential novel drug targets will be expanded upon. The application of viral and non-viral vectors to transfer and express genetic information will also be covered, in addition to clinical applications of these technologies and the adverse events that can occur.


Lectures Microbial toxins and their function in infectious disease (10) Introduction to secretion system pathways and function of effector proteins in pathogenicity. Bacterial protein toxins; historical aspects, toxins produced by principal toxigenic bacteria. Enterotoxins of Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae - Comparison of structures, molecular mechanisms of action, genetics, role in the pathogenesis of acute diarrhoeal disease. Anaerobic pathogens: pathogenesis and the structure and mode of action of the large clostridial toxins. Viral Gene Therapy (6) Students are introduced to the concept of Gene Therapy and how the pathogenic mechanisms of viruses are exploited to treat clinical conditions using this technology. An in-depth understanding for selection of appropriate vectors to use for specific treatments and how to prepare these at the molecular level is addressed. In particular, viral vectors are the focus with comparisons made to non-viral vectors. The pathogenic risks associated with gene therapy are also discussed in the context of current clinical trials. Mechanisms of pathogen survival within the host (12) Iron uptake pathways in pathogenic bacteria and targeting uptake mechanisms as a potential drug target. The role of the envelope and outer membrane proteins in intrinsic and acquired resistance to antibiotics. Role of efflux pumps in antimicrobial resistance in gram negative bacteria. Mechanisms and regulation of bacterial biofilm formation and governing pathways associated with biofilm induced antimicrobial tolerance. Translational aspects targeting biofilm infections using novel anti-biofilm molecules. The antiviral function of host cell restriction factors and therapeutic potential of the RNAi system against hepatitis C virus will also be covered. Tutorials (7) Tutorial sessions will introduce methodology to study pathogenicity or develop viral vectors for gene therapy for clinical use, testing parameters required for assessment of in vitro and in vivo efficacy. Students should gain an ability to analyse and rationally interpret data. Tutorial sessions will also provide opportunities for revision sessions, focussed around stimulating student discussion and participation.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student should be able to:1. Appreciate the principles underpinning important techniques in molecular biology in the context of infectious disease.2. Appraise current knowledge and understanding of the multifactorial nature of microbial pathogenicity.3. Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of host/pathogen interactions in disease.4. Evaluate molecular biological approaches to fundamental research within microbial pathogenicity.5. Describe viral pathogenesis in the context of gene therapy applications and analyse the role of these techniques in laboratory and clinical research.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

A blended learning approach utilising a wide range of teaching methods including lectures, review and revision sessions are employed within the module. Lecture material will introduce the key theoretical concepts and principles, with the GCU virtual learning environment providing a dedicated resource to encourage further student's engagement through additional reading with materials provided by module tutors including web-links, supplementary videos and published scientific articles and reviews. In addition, data interpretation and analysis sessions are an integral part of the module curriculum and students will be encouraged to critically interpret data reported in scientific publications. A methods exam is provided which utilises both lecture material and research publications to encourage the student to engage with the topic from a research perspective. For example, the student may be required to design a research protocol to develop and prepare a vector for a gene therapy treatment specified in the exam paper. This requires an understanding of the subject and the ability to think critically about the most appropriate strategy they will use and why. Formative feedback will be given on assessment during the module, within 3 weeks of submission. Module tutors also offer face-face feedback regarding assessment at the request of the student. This module is well aligned with the common good curriculum and encourages students to engage with global health challenges such as the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, and the urgent need for alternative therapeutic strategies for controlling infectious disease to provide a more sustainable society. Additionally, ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing is the third goal of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with understanding infectious disease an integral component within this knowledge platform.

Indicative Reading

Reading material will be recommended by individual tutors and will include relevant recent scientific papers and reviews. However, the following texts may be useful: Dale and Park (2010). Molecular Genetics of Bacteria (5th edition). Wiley. Nash A. and Dalziel (2015) Mim's Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease (5th Ed) Academic Press Salyers, AA and Whitt, DD (2010). Bacterial Pathogenesis. A molecular Approach (2nd edition). ASM Press Katze, MG. (2016). Viral pathogenesis: from basics to systems biology

Transferrable Skills

Each student should develop a series of generic skills. These include: The ability to communicate information in a logical and coherent fashion. The development of the ability to retrieve information using the library and electronic resources. The ability to study independently and evaluate literature published in areas related to the lecture material To critically evaluate scientific processes and experimental design

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Tutorials (FT) 7.00
Lectures (FT) 28.00
Assessment (FT) 20.00
Independent Learning (FT) 145.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Course Work 01 1.00 40.00 35% Assessment of methodology and experimental design.
Exam 01 3.00 60.00 35% Unseen written examination.