Joint Medical Microbiology and Medical Virology SAC

Infection is a universal experience of humanity. All of us have had minor infections such as colds or gastroenteritis and many of these illnesses can be dealt with by simple measures. However, some infections can be life-threatening and dealing with these diseases is the work of medical microbiologists and medical virologists.

Specialists in these medical disciplines are based in laboratories, usually attached to hospitals, where they supervise investigations that identify the micro-organisms causing infections. Infections may be caused by any of many thousands of different pathogens, from viruses through bacteria, fungi to parasites, and new microbes are being discovered almost daily. Laboratory investigations range from the culture of bacteria on agar plates to the use of cutting edge molecular biology tests. Apart from identifying infectious organisms, laboratories test micro-organisms for their susceptibility to antimicrobials including antibiotics and HIV drugs.

Medical microbiologists and virologists are not only laboratory doctors; they also see patients on wards and in clinics where they diagnose and guide treatment even when the cause of an infection is not clear. They deal with all ages and types of patients, from premature babies to the elderly, medical, surgical, cancer and transplant patients. Most medical microbiologists and virologists also give advice to general practitioners on the management of infection in the community.

Many microbiologists are infection control doctors for their hospital, directing measures to protect patients from cross-infection from other patients, visitors, staff and the hospital environment including the air, food and water supplies. Microbiologists and virologists also support public health doctors in the management of outbreaks in the general population.

The emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance has become a serious risk to global health, limiting treatment choices and threatening patient outcomes. In some countries, infections that are resistant to all known antimicrobials are commonplace. Emerging viral infections such as SARS, MERS-CoV and new strains of influenza are a constant threat. Medical microbiologists and virologists are at the forefront of tackling resistance and emerging infections, often working across international boundaries to develop global strategies to prevent and control these challenges.

The Medical Microbiology and Virology Specialty Advisory Committee brings together many of the leading UK experts in infection and provides advice to the College on how to tackle the infection problems facing the country and beyond, supporting the development of professional standards that ensures patients with infections are properly investigated and treated and infection prevention measures are implemented effectively.

Chair: Professor the Hon Richard S Tedder FRCP FRCPath

Committee Members

Careers in microbiology and virology

  • Become a microbiologist

    With the seemingly endless growth of superbugs and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the analytical and inquisitive minds of medical microbiologists are vital in healthcare today – both for treating infections and for fighting the spread of disease.

  • Become a virologist

    Viruses are some of the most diverse of life forms in the world. This is often reflected in the diversity of those who commit their lives to studying viruses and the very different ways in which they have become interested in the subject.

Career case studies

  • Dr Philip Rice, Virologist

    I most enjoy putting all the pieces of information together (history, symptoms, signs, who the patient is, what they do in their life etc.), plus the results of other laboratory tests and making the diagnosis.

  • Dr Fiona Cooke: Managing endocarditis

    Richard Himsworth had been well all his life but began experiencing problem after problem. Eventually he was rushed to the emergency department where it was discovered he was suffering from endocarditis – a serious infection of the heart lining.