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Intercalated BSc in Infectious disease and epidemiology

Course Suspended for 2018/19


Aims of the programme

The science of infectious disease and epidemiology is an interdisciplinary subject situated at the interface between medicine, molecular and cell biology and the social sciences. This fact is taken into account by offering MBBS and BDS students the possibility of studying these subjects thoroughly in theory and practice in the form of an intercalated BSc in Infectious Disease and Epidemiology. Detailed knowledge of infectious disease and epidemiology is important for all doctors, given the ubiquity of infectious diseases in all parts of medical practice. Thus there is a growing need for scientifically trained doctors with an interest in infection, who will be in a position to carry out research to answer basic and translational research questions.

This programme builds on the strength and experience in teaching and learning from the Centre of Immunology and Infectious Disease and Centre for Primary Care and Public Health at the Blizard Institute, Barts & The London Medical School.

Learning outcomes for the programme

Students will acquire the critical skill and knowledge to recognise clinical manifestations of infections, initiate effective treatment strategies for their patients, and conduct research into current infectious disease challenges. Students who successfully complete the programme will be able to respond confidently and effectively to infectious disease challenges encountered in hospitals/clinics. They will be able to work in public health settings and work effectively in multi-disciplinary teams on behalf of local communities.

Specifically this programme will enable students to:

  1. Compare and contrast the role of different infectious pathogens in the natural history of diseases, and appraise the relationship between pathogen-host interactions and epidemiology of infectious diseases.
  2. Critique the basics of molecular and cell biology, and devise applications in clinical diagnostics and epidemiology to design and evaluate treatment interventions.
  3. Synthesise their own research goals and interpret their findings in the light of current knowledge in the field through in depth study of a number of basic problems in molecular and clinical virology, molecular and clinical microbiology and immunology.
  4. Design experiments/clinical trials, collect and interpret relevant data and communicate these results within the scientific community after first-hand experience of experimental investigations in infectious disease and/or epidemiology related projects.

Structure and timing

Each module will be taught using a range of methods, varying according to the subject and learning objectives of the module. All modules will include lectures, small group tutorials, and independent study. Most modules will follow a format of structured preparatory work (reading and reflection exercises), weekly interactive lectures, a two-hour small group seminar. Visiting speakers will provide insight into current research and clinical advancements. Data analysis sessions (epidemiology and statistics) will include introduction to real data sets such as those from local or national public health observatories.

  • Introduction to Clinical Microbiology (15 units - Autumn term)
  • Molecular Biology in Infectious Disease (15 units - Autumn term)
  • Principles of Virology (15 units - Autumn term)
  • Essential Immunology (15 units - Autumn term)
  • Epidemiology and Statistics (15 units - Autumn term)
  • Research Project (linked to course topics) (45 units - Spring term)

How will you be assessed?

Different modules will be assessed differently, depending on the learning objectives. The assessments are spread throughout the academic year, culminating in a written thesis summarizing and discussing the research project outcomes.

  • Written exams for 5 of the modules (SAQ or SAQ/Essay or MCQ/EMQ based for Clinical Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Immunology, Virology, and Epidemiology)
  • Oral Presentation and Poster Presentation (Epidemiology and Clinical Microbiology)
  • Written paper critique (2000 words, Virology) and practical skills test (Molecular Biology)
  • Dissertation (8000 words, Research Project)

Throughout term 1 and term 2 we offer feed forward and feedback workshops on how to write a critique/dissertation, how to design a poster, how to prepare oral presentations, and SAQ/MCQ/EMC/essay writing. These sessions prepare students for the different assessments, but more importantly practise science writing and communication within science.

Summary of course units

Introduction to Clinical Microbiology

Course Organiser: Michele Branscombe (CIID/BI)

The student will develop a sound knowledge and understanding of bacteria, parasites and fungi and their role in health and disease, including the role of the clinical microbiology laboratory. The module will also explain the principles of antimicrobial therapy.

This module offers the student:

  1. A thorough knowledge and understanding of the major bacteria, parasites and fungi which can cause disease in man. This knowledge will include an understanding of mechanisms of pathogenesis and appropriate antimicrobial therapy.
  2. A knowledge of microbial agents of tropical disease.
  3. A knowledge of new and emerging pathogens.

Molecular Biology of Infectious Disease

Course Organiser: Prof L Hall (CIID/BI)

The practice of clinical microbiology is dependent on a combination of traditional microbial culture and microscopy methods and a gradual but accelerating take-up of new techniques that range from automation of traditional methods to mass-spectrometry, PCR and whole-genome sequencing. A solid understanding of the molecular biology of microorganisms and the principles on which new technologies are based is essential for interpretation and gaining maximum benefit from advances in the field. This module will explain the underlying science of new technologies and develop a critical approach to data analysis.

The module is intended to give a good grounding in the molecular biology of pathogens and how this differs from eukaryotes and then apply that to explaining modern diagnostic and epidemiological methods such as PCR and DNA sequencing. Research papers describing the assessment of new techniques and applications of these techniques in understanding microbiological problems will be used to encourage a critical approach to the interpretation of data.

Principles of Virology

Course Organiser: Dr. MT Dittmar (CIID/BI)

This unit aims to provide the student with a molecular-based approach to understanding viral replication and hence, viral pathogenesis (virus life cycle, virus host interaction). Throughout the unit, the implications of this understanding for the development of viral vaccines, antiviral chemotherapy (immune evasion, antivirals, vaccines) and its impact on the clinical management of viral diseases will be stressed. Tutorials allow the application of new knowledge to understand ‘hot-topics’ in virology at the time.

The module is intended to equip students with a basic understanding of virology, biology of viruses, and clinical virology. Students will be enabled to engage in clinical debates around interventions in virology.

Essential Immunology

Course Organiser: Dr A Stagg (CIID/BI)

This module aims to provide the student with an understanding of the immune system, its role in protecting the host from infectious disease and its contribution to aspects of modern medicine. In the first part of the module the focus will be on the fundamental cellular and molecular components of the immune system and on mechanisms of antigen recognition. The second part explores how these components function together to generate immune responses and protect against infectious disease. The final part develops these themes in the context of immunological medicine exploring both immunological disease (hypersensitivity, inflammation) and the significance for modern medicine (vaccination, biological therapies etc). In tutorials this new knowledge will be reinforced and used to explore current 'hot-topics' and controversies in immunology.

The module is intended to equip students with a fundamental understanding of the immune system and its role, not only in protecting the host against infectious disease but also its contribution to diverse aspects of health and medicine. Students will be able to engage in clinical debates around immunological issues and to critically appraise the quality of research and clinical trials in the field and more widely.

Epidemiology and Statistics

Course Organiser: Dr. Sally Kerry (/BI)

This module introduces students to key epidemiological and statistical concepts and methods used in public health and primary care research and policy making. Students will be expected to understand, define, and use incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates; understand the principles of standardisation and survival analysis; understand how to differentiate between association and causation and hypothesis generation and testing; and understand the principles of screening criteria. The module will also equip students to critically appraise qualitative research evidence underpinning policy interventions designed to prevent, diagnose and treat disease and ameliorate inequalities in health through an understanding of research study designs and statistical techniques, including tests of significance and confidence intervals.

The module is intended to equip students for primary care and public health research, policy and practice and to enable them to engage in clinical policy debates around interventions designed to reduce social inequalities. They will be able to critically appraise the quality of research and clinical trials and will have the building blocks on which to build evidence based practice.

Research Projects

Course Organiser: Dr. MT Dittmar (CIID/BI) and project supervisors

The project will normally be a piece of original research, which is expected to occupy the spring term (Jan-April). It involves experimental work or measurements on patients undergoing clinical investigation, and is presented as a written report (dissertation).

This module provides students with first hand experience of basic/clinical research, being part of a research group located within the Blizard Institute/Clinical setting during term 2.

The project is chosen from one or more of several subject areas (Microbiology, Virology, Immunology, Clinical Diagnostics and Epidemiology) as provided through the programme organiser. However, if a student has a specific interest outside these general areas, it is possible, subject to consultation with a potential supervisor and the programme organiser, to devise a project related to this.

The module aims to provide:

  • an understanding of basic research/clinical research currently ongoing within the School of Medicine and Dentistry
  • experience of practical scientific research, design and develop an experimental set-up to investigate current knowledge gaps in the field
  • experience in interpretation and evaluation of own research results and formulating new hypotheses to answer research questions
  • experience of disseminating scientific research (dissertation, poster, oral presentation)

Further information

To find out more about this course, please contact Dr. Matthias Dittmar (

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