Courses Catalogue

Clinical And Forensics Approaches For Microbial Identification

COURSE CODE: MCB 7108
COURSE CREDIT UNIT: 3
ACADEMIC PROGRAMME: Microbiology, M.Sc
COLLEGE/SCHOOL/FACULTY: Faculty of Biomedical Sciences
STATUS: Elective
PROGRAMME TYPE: Postgraduate

Course Description

Prerequisite: All students applying for this course are expected to have basic studies in Microbiology.

Course Justification

This course would be justified if it is able to provide an in-depth understanding of the risks associated with intentional and unintentional release of biological agents and the systems and practices used to investigate, contain or control these releases. Its justification will also be based on introduction of various aspects of biosecurity and microbial forensics, with a focus on the types of biological agents or situations that pose a potential security risk.  

Course Description

This lecture-based course will discuss theory and application of human genetics and molecular biology to testing of biological evidence. DNA structure and organization of the human genome and types of genetic variation occurring in humans will be covered. Other topics include the history of DNA analysis and current PCR based methods for testing of autosomal STR loci, Y chromosome STR loci and mitochondrial DNA. Lecture material will also cover commonly encountered artifacts in PCR testing, DNA profile interpretation and statistical analysis of results.

This course is designed to provide an in-depth understanding of the risks associated with intentional and unintentional release of biological agents and the systems and practices used to investigate, contain or control these releases. Each module will introduce various aspects of biosecurity and microbial forensics, with a focus on the types of biological agents or situations that pose a potential security risk. This course will aim to equip students with the skills needed to evaluate potential biological threats and to respond effectively once a biological event has been identified.

Course Aim

Microbial forensics is a scientific discipline dedicated to analyzing evidence from a bioterrorism act, biocrime, or inadvertent microorganism/toxin release for attribution purposes. This emerging discipline is still in the early stages of development and faces substantial scientific challenges to provide a robust suite of technologies for identifying the source of a biological threat agent and attributing a biothreat act to a particular person or group. It also is likely that scientific, political, and media-based controversy will surround any investigation of the alleged use of a biological agent, and can be expected to affect significantly the role that scientific information or evidence can play. For these reasons, building awareness of and capacity in microbial forensics can assist in our understanding of what may have occurred during a biothreat event, and international collaborations that engage the broader scientific and policy-making communities are likely to strengthen our microbial forensics capabilities. This course will create a shared technical understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the scientific bases for microbial forensics analysis.

Course Expected learning outcomes

At the end of this course, students should be able to:

Understand the concepts of biosecurity and microbial forensics, and have an awareness of the current and historical biological threats

Describe the general characteristics of the major groups of biological agents, the threat these agents pose to biosecurity and how they may be used as biological weapons

Appreciate the role modern biotechnology could play in the potential development of designer pathogens

Understand the role of epidemiology and surveillance in biosecurity, and be able to identify signs of a suspicious outbreak

Understand the safety issues and regulations involved with handling biological hazards

Describe the different types of samples and methods of collection, decontamination procedures, storage and transport conditions, and analytical tests that are used during disease outbreak investigations

Understand the health, environmental, economic, political, legal and social issues related to biosecurity.