Microbiology – Concept, classification, branches, importance

We explain what microbiology is, what its branches of study are and why it is important. Also, how it is classified and its history.

An instrument of microbiology is the microscope.

What is Microbiology?

Microbiology is one of the branches that make up biology and focuses on the study of microorganisms. It is dedicated to its classification, description, distribution and the analysis of its ways of life and functioning. In the case of pathogenic microorganisms, microbiology also studies their form of infection and the mechanisms for their elimination.

The object of study of microbiology are those organisms not perceptible to the human eye, so an instrument typical of this branch of biology is the microscope, invented in the 17th century.

Among the organisms studied by microbiology eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell aggregates are found, cells, fungi, viruses and bacteria and all those microscopic elements.

Branches of microbiology

virus - microbiology
Virology studies viruses, classifies them, analyzes their evolution and ways of infecting them.

When dealing with the microbial agents that generate infectious pathologies, four branches are identified within microbiology:

  • Parasitology. It focuses on the study of parasitism and includes eukaryotic parasites such as helminths, protozoa, and arthropods. This branch also addresses diseases or parasites that affect plants, humans and animals.
  • Bacteriology. He is dedicated to studying bacteria and the diseases they generate.
  • Mycology. It is devoted to the study of fungi.
  • Virology. It studies viruses, classifies them and analyzes their evolution, structure, ways of infecting and harboring themselves in host cells and their interaction with them. On the other hand, address the diseases caused by viruses and the development of techniques for their cultivation, isolation and use.

Importance of microbiology

In the field of health and medicine, microbiology is of great importance since it is what is responsible for studying pathogenic microorganisms such as fungi, viruses, parasites and bacteria that can cause disease in humans.

From microbiology infectious diseases suffered by any patient are studied and thanks to it, it is possible to determine which is the most appropriate treatment for each disease and patient.

In addition, the knowledge developed in microbiology is applied in industries of all kinds, for example, in energy, where this knowledge is applied to convert waste into energy sources.

Types of microbiology

Medical microbiology studies disease-causing microorganisms.

Within microbiology, different sub-disciplines are identified according to their object of study. Some of them are the following:

  • Sanitary microbiology. It is dedicated to the study of those organisms that contaminate food and put the health of those who consume it at risk.
  • Veterinary microbiology. It is dedicated to addressing microorganisms that affect the health of animals.
  • Phytopathology. It addresses the diseases that some protists, bacteria, viruses or fungi can generate in plantations.
  • Medical microbiology. It studies those microorganisms that cause diseases and takes into account their treatment and transmission.
  • Agricultural microbiology. It addresses the bacteria and fungi that settle on crops and studies how the interaction between them can be beneficial.
  • Microbial Genetics. Analyze the regulation and organization of microbial genes.
  • Microbial ecology. It addresses the behavior of microbe populations and the interaction with their habitat.
  • Microbial physiology. Study the functioning of microbial cells.
  • Evolutionary microbiology. It is devoted to the study of the evolution of microbes.

History of microbiology

Microbiology as a science did not develop until the nineteenth century but its origins can be found throughout history, so it speaks of four periods:

  • First period. It ranges from ancient times to the first microscopists (it does not have specific dates).
  • Second period. It has its beginnings around 1675 (when Leeuwenhoek discovered microorganisms) and goes until the mid-1800s.
  • Third period. It begins with the development of microorganism cultures and ends in the mid-1800s, when Koch and Pasteur, with their advances, turned microbiology into an established science.
  • Fourth period. It has its beginnings in the early 1900s, when specialists approach microorganisms from various angles such as genetics, ecology, biochemistry and physiology.

Microbiology career

Microbiology - biology
A microbiologist manipulates microorganisms by developing solutions in various areas.

Many universities have a degree in Microbiology designed to train specialists in this discipline, who dedicate themselves to research and policy development related to microorganisms and infectious diseases.

Graduates in Microbiology are trained to work in fields related to illness and disease, and to manipulate microorganisms to develop solutions in the most diverse areas.

What’s more, microbiologists can control the quality of food products, pharmaceutical, agricultural and environmental.

Viruses in microbiology

In microbiology, the virus is defined as a genetic agent that has a core region made up of RNA, DNA, or nucleic acid. In addition, this nucleus is covered by proteins or capsid and, in some cases, by lipoprotein.

Every virus has enough information to specify its reproductive cycle, and it differs from others by its chemical composition, shape and size.

Viruses began to be isolated only a few decades ago and that is why there are no certainties about their origins: only the qualities of today’s viruses can be analyzed in depth.