AAT Bioquest

What are the branches of microbiology?

Posted September 18, 2023


Microbiology focuses on the study of microorganisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. The two main branches of microbiology are Pure Microbiology and Applied Microbiology. These are further divided into several sub-classes. 

Sub-classes of pure microbiology are based on the types of microorganisms being studied and their function. Sub-classes of applied microbiology are based on the interactions and applications of various microorganisms. 

Pure microbiology branches include: 

  • Bacteriology: This branch focuses on the study of bacteria, including their structure, function, biochemistry, classification, genetics, and interactions with other organisms. Bacteriologists use their knowledge of bacteria to develop effective ways for preventing and treating bacterial diseases. 
  • Virology: Virology involves the study of viruses, including their structure, replication mechanisms, and their impact on host organisms and diseases. There are four main types of viruses – animal, plant, and fungal viruses and bacteriophages. Virologists use their understanding of viruses and the diseases and infections they cause to prevent viral outbreaks and manage or treat symptoms individually and at the community level.   
  • Mycology: Mycology is the study of fungi, including yeasts, molds, and mushrooms. Mycologists study the biochemical properties, genetics, toxicity, ecology, and medical relevance of fungi.
  • Parasitology: Parasitology deals with the study of parasites, which are organisms that live in or on a host organism and often cause diseases.
  • Phycology: Also known as algology, this branch of microbiology revolves around the scientific study of algae. These photosynthetic eukaryotic organisms, which belong to the aquatic ecosystem, use atmospheric carbon dioxide to produce various commercial biological products.
  • Immunology: Immunology focuses on the immune system in all organisms. Immunologists play a key role in preventing and managing a wide range of disorders such as hypersensitivities, immune deficiency and autoimmune diseases. 
  • Protozoology: This branch involves the study of protozoa or single-celled protists that feed by heterotrophy and are not animals, plants, or fungi. Amoeba and plasmodium are two of the most-widely studied protists. 
  • Nematology: Nematology is the study of nematodes or roundworms such as hookworms, ascarids, pinworks, and filarias, which are found as parasites in humans. 

Applied microbiology branches include:

  • Environmental Microbiology: Environmental microbiology studies the interactions between microbes and their environment, including their roles in nutrient cycling and ecosystem processes. This branch of applied microbiology is further sub-divided into different fields such as Geomicrobiology, Bioremediation, Microbial ecology, Microbial diversity, and Microbially-mediated nutrient cycling.  
  • Medical Microbiology: Medical microbiology is a large and diverse branch of microbiology that’s concerned with the study of microorganisms that cause human diseases. Medical microbiologists study the mechanisms of transmission, infection, and growth of pathogens, which helps in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases. 
  • Industrial Microbiology: This branch explores the ways that microorganisms can be used in various industrial processes, such as the drug production, industrial fermentation, food preservation, biopolymers, and wastewater treatment.  
  • Pharmaceutical Microbiology: Pharmaceutical microbiology focuses on the safety and quality control of healthcare and pharmaceutical products, ensuring they are free from harmful microorganisms. It also explores the use of microbes and 
  • Food & Dairy Microbiology: Food & dairy microbiology focuses on microorganisms in food, with special attention to food safety, preservation, fermentation, and spoilage. Some food microbiologists specialize in the study of microbes that contaminate foods and cause food spoilage. Others specialize in exploiting microbes, such as lactic acid bacteria, to create diverse products such as yogurt, cheese, bread, and wine.  
  • Agricultural Microbiology: This branch explores the role of microorganisms in agriculture, including soil nutrients, soil fertility, plant-microbe interactions, and microbial degradation of soil. The focus is on beneficial microbes that play a role in decomposing organic matter, recycling plant material, and enriching soil nutrients. 
  • Aquatic Microbiology: Aquatic microbiology studies microorganisms in aquatic environments, including oceans, lakes, rivers, and other water bodies, and their impact on aquatic ecosystems.
  • Aeromicrobiology: Aeromicrobiology involves the study of airborne microbes and how they affect other organisms.
  • Microbial Genetics: Microbial genetics investigates the genetic makeup of microorganisms, their gene expression, mutations, and how genes are transferred among microbes.
  • Microbial Ecology: Microbial ecology focuses on the interactions of microorganisms with each other and their environment, and how they influence ecosystem dynamics.
  • Microbial Biotechnology: Microbial biotechnology involves the manipulation of microbes at the genetic and molecular level for the production of valuable products, such as biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and bioplastics.

The branches of microbiology often overlap, and advancements in one area can have implications in others.

Additional resources

The Basic Concept of Microbiology

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