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Unit information: Health Sciences: Pathology and Microbiology in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Health Sciences: Pathology and Microbiology
Unit code ORDS20011
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Sohail
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Dental School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences


The course consists of a series of 38 lectures interspersed with a series of 6 practicals and 5 tutorials. It has been put together to follow a natural progression through distinct although clearly interlocking subject areas.

These are:

A. Inflammation and repair

B. Immunology (basic and applied)

C. Principles in Microbiology

D. Control of infectious disease & Infectious diseases of the body systems

E. The molecular and cellular basis of cancer


The aim of this course is to introduce the student to the concepts that underlie cellular pathology and the scope of human infectious disease and cancer. To introduce terminology which will form the backbone to the rest of their studies.

In order to achieve this, the course will provide basic information concerning:

  • the non-specific events surrounding the inflammatory response, linked to a study of the organisation and function of the immune system;
  • cellular responses to injury and in healing;
  • how man adapts to prevent infection following damage;
  • the way in which the immune system is involved in clearing infectious material, coupled with information concerning how the immune response may actually be damaging to the host (hypersensitivity and autoimmunity);
  • the biology of the groups of organisms that are capable of causing disease in man (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) and how they have evolved to use the human body as a site for growth;
  • how perceived normal flora can become harmful in other sites of the human body and cause disease;
  • how infectious diseases are spread and may be controlled within the community through preventing spread, preventing infection and eliminating disease;
  • how antibiotics interfere with bacterial cell growth and how bacteria evolve to become antibiotic resistant;
  • the normal and abnormal proliferation and differentiation of cells together with the alterations which can lead to the development of cancers;
  • environmental factors associated with cancer and principles of prevention and treatment.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Understand the pathological processes of inflammation, cell and tissue damage, and repair at the tissue, cellular and molecular level;
  • Understand the role of inflammation in bringing in and activating components of the immune system;
  • Discuss the distinct components of the humoral and cell mediated immune response and the importance of the interactions between them;
  • Understand how the immune response may be involved in causing pathology as a result of its inappropriate activation to foreign components (allergy) and self proteins (autoimmunity);
  • Describe the structure and physiology of micro-organisms, comparing them with each other and with human cells;
  • State the organisms involved in common infective processes;
  • Discuss the concepts of commensalism and pathogenicity, the microbial properties relating to pathogenesis and the links between commensalism and opportunist infections;
  • Describe the transmission of micro-organisms and the epidemiology of common infections in the hospital and community;
  • Understand the principles underlying methods of sterilisation and disinfection and aseptic procedures;
  • Describe the mechanisms of action of the major antimicrobial agents used in dentistry and their spectra of activity;
  • Discuss the acquisition of resistance to antimicrobial agents and the major mechanisms involved;
  • Understand the principles controlling the proliferation and differentiation of cells and how these processes can fail;
  • Explain how tissues are maintained through stem cells, cell proliferation and cellular differentiation using the oral epithelium as an example;
  • Explain how the cell cycle is regulated in normal cells;
  • Understand how cell proliferation and differentiation is controlled and how these control mechanisms can fail;
  • Understand that neoplasia is a multi-step process characterised by sequential alterations in a number of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes;
  • Discuss the reasons why different groups of people are more susceptible to particular cancers, particularly oral cancers;
  • Define the role of environmental factors, including viruses, in carcinogenesis;
  • Describe the nomenclature and broad classification of tumours, and the general characteristics of tumours in terms of clinical behaviour, morphological changes, molecular biological and cytogenetic features;
  • Describe the routes and mechanisms by which cancers spread;
  • Describe the relationship between many tumours and certain hormones;
  • Understand the principles of prevention and treatment of cancer.

This unit contributes to delivery and assessment of the following General Dental Council learning outcomes as specified in Preparing for Practice:

1.1: 1.1.3 / 1.1.4 / 1.1.5 / 1.1.8 / 1.1.9 / 1.1.12

1.2: 1.2.3

1.4: 1.4.2

1.8: 1.8.1 / 1.8.2

1.10: 1.10.3

1.12: 1.12.1 / 1.12.2 / 1.12.3

2: 2.1

4: 4.4

5: 5.1

9: 9.2

Teaching details

The unit consists of a series of 40 lectures interspersed with a series of 6 practicals and 5 tutorials.

Assessment Details

The final Unit mark is an aggregate of the following assessments:

1. Mid-sessional MCQ (10% of the final Unit mark)
The midsessional MCQ examination will have 20 Single Best Answer questions and will last 40 minutes.

2. Microbiology practical related work (eBiolabs) (10%)
These are assessed pre and post practical quizzes.

3. Oral presentations (15%)
Each student gives an oral presentation to staff and students for 10 minutes followed by 5 minutes for questions. Feedback is provided.

4. Final MCQ examination (65%)
The final examination consisting of multiple choice questions lasts 2 hours and 40 minutes.

The standard set pass mark will be scaled to 50% as described in the section on Standard Setting above.

Students who achieve an overall mark of 50% with a minimum of 40% for their combined MCQ marks will pass the unit.

The July resit exam may also act as a supplementary examination for students sitting it "as for the first time" because of accepted Extenuating Circumstances affecting the final examinations. For these students midsessional marks will be included in the calculation of the Unit mark. Students sitting resit exams as second attempt, will NOT have the continuous assessment marks carried forward to the resit examination. The marks achieved in the resit exams will comprise 100% of the Unit mark.

Reading and References

  • Goering R, Dockrell H, Zuckerman M, Roitt I, Chiodini PL. 5th ed. Mim’s Medical Microbiology. Elsevier Saunders; 2012. ISBN 9780723436010.
  • Murray P, Rosenthal K, Pfaller M. 7th ed. Medical Microbiology. Elsevier Saunders: 2012. ISBN 9780323086929.
  • Janeway CA, Travers P, Walport M, Schlomchik MJ. 6th rev ed. Immunobiology: The immune system in health and disease. Churchill Livingstone; 2004. ISBN 9780443073106.
  • Sheffield EA. Pathology in dentistry. Oxford University Press; 1996. ISBN 0192624210.
  • Underwood JCE, Cross SS. 5th ed. General & Systemic Pathology. Churchill Livingstone; 2009. ISBN 9780443068881
  • Kumar V, Abbas A, Fausto N, Aster J. 8th ed. Robbins and Cotran’s Pathologic Basis of Disease. Elsevier Saunders; 2009. ISBN 9781416031215.
  • Kumar V, Abbas A, Aster J. 9th ed. Robbins basic pathology. Elsevier Saunders; 2012. ISBN 9781437717815.