What are the roles of Medical Microbiologist?

Role of Microbiologist: Cartoon by Czichos

Microbiologists work in public health laboratories, hospital laboratories, reference or independent laboratories, and physician office laboratories.

Microbiologist must be aware of what the physician needs and as well as what the laboratory needs.

At an elementary level, the physician needs answers to three basic questions from the microbiology laboratory:

Role of Microbiologist: Cartoon by Czichos
  1. Is my patient’s illness caused by a microbe?
  2. If so, what is it?
  3. What is the antibiotic susceptibility profile of that organism so that therapy can be targeted?

To answer the above mentioned questions, laboratory needs quality specimen: a specimen that is sufficient in quantity as well as properly selected, collected and transported.   To ensure this, microbiologist must communicate with physician, nurse and laboratory staff regarding appropriate selection, collection and transport methods.  Preanalytical specimen management in microbiology laboratory is critical to accuracy.

Role of medical microbiologist differs according to the work stations. Medical microbiologist working in reference laboratories might be devoted to carry out research in a particular gene whereas the microbiologist working in general diagnostic laboratory are confined to routine laboratory works.

But in general a microbiologist will perform one or more of the following functions:

  1. Direct detection of  pathogenic organisms by microscopy  (This might involve use of staining techniques tailored for suspected pathogenic organisms)
  2. Cultivation (growth), identification, and antimicrobial susceptibility testing of microorganisms
  3. Direct detection of specific products of infecting organisms using chemical, immunologic, or molecular techniques
  4. Detection of antibodies produced by the patient in response to an infecting organism (serodiagnosis)
  5. working with specialist computer software to undertake studies and research;
  6. Managing and overseeing laboratory work
  7. Work as a key figure in the control of hospital infection and in antimicrobial policy
  8. Academic jobs:  microbiologists make a substantial contribution to teaching activity i.e. teaching  medical laboratory, medical science or basic science students, preparing assessment and providing feedback