Course: MICB 202 – Introductory Medical Microbiology
Session Taken: Summer 2010
Course Duration: July 05 to Aug 13.
This course is meant to be an introduction to medical microbiology and immunology. The three main topics that are discussed in this course are immunology, bacterial diseases, and virology. In immunology, you get to learn about the cells of the human body’s immune system and their purpose, as well as the intricate processes that occur when the body encounters a pathogen or foreign substance. In bacterial diseases, you learn about the scientific terms used to describe bacteria or bacterial diseases, and also about specific virulence factors that specific bacteria use to infect and cause disease in a human host (case studies like Salmonella, Cholera, Pertussis, etc). In virology, you learn about how viruses infect human hosts, and specific case studies that discuss different types of replication cycles (HIV, Influenza and poliovirus).
I took MICB 202 in the Summer of 2010.
The way the course was structured was that we would go through each of the three topics one by one, starting with immunology and ending with virology. The instructor gave us “review sessions” in between topics where we could ask questions about the topic that we had just finished. These review sessions were quite useful. It was in a sense like a break so that we could stop learning new material and therefore finish absorbing the recently finished topic.
Immunology is a topic that I found quite challenging to learn at first. We were supposed to learn about how the immune system responds to pathogens, yet we did not know the terminology/jargon used to describe such processes. Thus, we first learned about the basic stuff/terminology, starting with the cells of the immune system, including red blood cells, T cells, B cells, monocytes, polymorphonuclear leukocytes (neutrophils), hematopoietic stem cells, macrophages, basophils, eosinophils, mast cells, dentritic cells, etc. There is a lot of different cells to memorize here, and each is involved in the immune response to a pathogen. However, the problem is that since we do not have any knowledge of the immune system processes, learning about these specific cells was difficult since there was no relevance to anything that we knew of from previous courses, and thus specific cell types were easily forgotten. After “getting through” the basic terminology, we then learned about the specific processes in which the different cells were involved. But since I kinda forgot what some cells were or what they did, learning about the processes was also difficult. It was also difficult to be able to remember certain steps in the right order. I usually had to go back to the terminology/cells of the immune system to refresh myself, then back to the processes to be able to understand and absorb the processes.
An example of a process – the innate immune response to an extracellular bacterium:
Mast cells in the tissue release substances including histamine and tumor necrosis factor which increases blood flow to the area. Complement protein enter the tissue from the blood, which can kill many bacteria and also act as opsonins, and furthermore are able to cause further inflammation. Neutrophils and monocytes arrive. Neutrophils ingest bacteria by phagocytosis immediately. Monocytes differentiate into macrophages which secrete bactericidal substances but also phagocytose bacteria.
You can see that the level of detail and the amount of jargon can be at first, overwhelming.
Material covered in immunology include cells of the immune system, the innate and adaptive immune response (T and B cell development/activation, antibodies), immune responses to pathogens, unwanted immune responses, disorders of the immune system (e.g. AIDS), and antibodies used in the lab.
2. Bacterial Diseases
Bacterial Diseases was the easiest out of the three topics for me. It had a lot of information too, but rather than learning about specific and very detailed and ordered processes like in Immunology, it just had simpler facts to understand and memorize. Basically, it just had descriptions of different things rather than descriptions of long, intricate processes. We learned about the normal flora, biofilms, host defense mechanisms, antibiotics, epidemiology, pathogenesis and bioterrorism. In addition, we learned about at least five specific case studies of different species of bacteria that have a specific virulence factor that they use to infect and cause disease in humans. For example, Vibrio cholerae is a species of bacteria that secretes cholera toxin (an exotoxin) that causes intestinal cells to excrete water, causing a 20 L/day diarrhea.
Virology is the shortest topic out of the three, but it wasn’t easier than bacterial diseases in my opinion. Back we go to detailed processes that you must memorize to fully understand the material. The material discussed in this topic include virus structure, virus genome, replication cycle, classification, cultivation of viruses in the lab and vaccines. In addition, you get to learn about three specific case studies (Poliovirus, Influenza, and HIV) that detail the intricacies of the replication cycle processes of these viruses. Everything in virology other than the three specific case studies merely involve understanding and memorization of relatively simple facts, while the case studies themselves involve understanding and memorizing of all the steps of how the virus replicates and how these steps tie in with each other. I found that most of the final exam questions in virology focused on these three case studies.
Basically, just writing notes, reading the Powerpoint, sometimes watching videos, and clicker questions.
Grade Scheme/Statistics on Student Grades
The grade scheme is as follows:
Final Exam – 90%
Assignments/other activities – 10%
The assignments/activities included i-Clicker questions, Peerwise participation, and written assignments. Written assignments were a bit tricky sometimes. Make sure your units make sense…
It is not too hard to get a decent grade in this course. Basically, you need to study for the final exam since it is worth 90% of your final mark. The assignments/activities are for the most part straightforward and a 8-10% should be almost guaranteed. In 2010S (my session), the average final mark was 76.9%. 52.9% of the entire class got 80% or higher as their final mark. Around 20% of the entire class achieved 90% or higher. For 2009S, these values were similar. For 2009W, these values were also similar, except that only about 6% of the entire class achieved 90% or higher.
About the final exam – the 2.5 – 3 hr final exam consisted of a multiple choice section and a written section. The written section had three questions – one on immunology, one in bacterial diseases, and one on virology. The multiple choice section had 84 questions in total, with a third of the questions for each section. The practice final exam questions that the professor posted online was easier than the actual exam. For many of the final exam questions, you had to choose two answers that were both correct answers to the question. 85% of the final exam questions came from the reading package, and the other 15% came from in-class stuff that the professor says. Also, the final exam questions on the case studies (e.g. Salmonella, HIV, etc.) almost always only involved the one virulence factor that was featured, and not the other features of the pathogen.
The ‘textbook’ in this course was the MICB 202 note package that is pictured above that consists of 3 booklets. They were very important to read (many times) since most of the final exam questions will be based on the material in them. The pages in the booklet are your regular 8.5 by 11 inches paper, and there are approximately 140 pages of actual reading material in all. There were also diagrams at the back of each book, most of which I found not too useful. I really wish that they had integrated the diagrams into the main text of the book because it was annoying flipping back and forth. There are also pre-reading questions and learning objectives at the front of the book. I considered taking notes off the book and using the learning objectives as “guide phrases” but I decided that it would be more worthwhile to simply read the books many times instead of copying it out to then read the same thing anyway. The note package (3 booklets) costs ~$20 in total and can be bought from the Microbiology and Immunology Student’s Association only at a specific time at the beginning of the course.
WINTER SESSION – MICB 202
If you plan to take MICB 202 during the Winter Session instead of the Summer Session (the Winter Session is the more popular option by far), some of the information above will be different. Here were some major differences.
Tentative Schedule (Winter) for Topics:
January 5 – February 2: Immunology
February 4 – March 9: Bacterial Diseases
March 11 – April 6: Virology
There is a midterm exam for the Winter Session. In 2011, it was in the second week of February. As there are multiple sections of MICB 202 in the Winter Session, exams are common to all sections and therefore written at the same time (in the evening, presumably).
The Midterm Exam focused solely on Immunology and is worth 34% of the final grade. The Final Exam was worth 66% and focused solely on Bacterial Diseases and Virology (edit: apparently, it could also have immunology, but to a lesser extent). A student must pass two of these three segments to pass the course. MICB 202 (and MICB 201) grades are not scaled.
In addition to the reading package (see above), there was also an E-text available that contains chapters from several textbooks that are relevant to the course. It was obtained through the UBC Bookstore. Hard copies were also available at the Bookstore. This option was not offered in the summer session so I am not sure how useful or ‘required’ it is.
edit: Seems like they finally combined the three note booklets into one