Microbiology and Virology

  • Microbiology is the study of microorganisms (microscopic organisms) that exist as single cells or cell clusters (i.e., bacteria, archaea, algae, fungi, protozoa, and viruses). The science of microbiology deals with the structure, function, and classification of such organisms and with investigating as well as controlling their activities. One of the advantages of the science of microbiology is that it provides simple tools for studying basic life processes, since many cellular activities are shared by microbial cells and more evolved (multicellular) organisms. In fact, much of our current understanding of biochemical and genetic processes in cells is based on studies carried out on microorganisms. Microorganisms constantly surround us and affect our lives on a daily basis. On the one hand, some of the human, animal, and plant diseases are caused by microorganisms. On the other hand, microorganisms contribute to numerous geobiological processes on earth and are routinely used in various industrial applications (e.g., the food industry, bioremediation, and biotechnology). Microbiological research implements both traditional and advanced research methods. The research focuses on diverse aspects ranging from basic to applied science and includes: (i) continued use of microorganisms as model systems for answering basic questions in biology; (ii) attempts to better understand and control the appearance, emergence, and recurrence of infectious diseases, with special emphasis on understanding the virulence mechanisms of mutual host-microorganism interactions and the interaction with the host's defense system; (iii) development of novel antimicrobial agents to overcome the resistance of microorganisms to existing substances; (iv) development of novel uses of microorganisms in industry, agriculture, and environmental processes; (v) characterization of the function of microorganisms in the environment and discovering the large number of microorganisms that have not yet been identified or grown in culture; (vi) in-depth understanding of basic processes (e.g., translation, transcription and splicing) of the eukaryotic pathogen which requires a systemic approach (system biology) for identification of unique processes in the pathogen that are not found in the host. This approach is especially important for pathogens such as parasites and fungi, where the differences with the host are small compared to bacterial pathogens. Viruses are known as generators of diseases in plants, animals and humans. Virological research has a variety of aspects, including epidemiological aspects (dispersion of the viruses and the morbidity that is related to them), clinical aspects (characteristics of the morbidity, prevention and treatment), and molecular aspects (the virus's genome and the molecular processes that are related to replication, expression of the viral genes and their action). The absolute dependence of viruses on living cells for their reproduction creates a complex web of interactions between viral components and proteins and cellular elements. Research of these interactions is important for understanding infection processes and for identifying weak points for impairing the infection process. Virus research may also help in understanding cellular processes that take place even in the absence of a viral infection.