About this subject

It was once thought that man had conquered infectious diseases, with improved sanitation and antibiotics the main weapons in the fight. This view, however, was called starkly into question by the Covid-19 pandemic, caused by the emergence of the virulent respiratory virus SARS-CoV-2. After two years the virus has killed more than 5 million people worldwide.

Infections have in fact always been killers. Another of the most insidious is the ‘ancient’ disease, tuberculosis, which killed 1.5 million in 2020. Whether long-recognised bacteria or novel viruses, the treatment, containment, and prevention of infectious diseases remain a global health challenge in the 21st century.

In this course you will examine the life cycle of SARS-CoV-2 and the tuberculosis bacterium, investigate why they are so difficult to eliminate, and discuss how they might be combated with drugs, vaccinations, and other interventions.

Learning outcomes

After studying this subject you will understand:

  • The life cycle and genetics of bacteria and viruses.
  • The principles behind the diagnosis of bacterial and viral diseases.
  • The functioning of the respiratory system and its susceptibility to attack.
  • The use of antibiotics and development of antibiotic resistant drugs.
  • The challenges in developing antiviral treatments.
  • The relation between social class and disease states.

Who is this subject suitable for?

This subject would suit students with a background in Medicine, Life Sciences, or related fields. There are no specific prerequisites but some university level experience of organic chemistry is recommended.

Teaching faculty

Prof David Harris DPhil is an Emeritus Fellow in Biochemistry at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford.

Dr Carol Lole-Harris is a Lecturer in Biochemistry and Medical Sciences at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford, formerly a family doctor, and has a particular interest in medical ethics.

Dates and availability

This subject is available as a residential programme:

Session One: 26th June 2022 to 16th July 2022

This subject is available as an online programme:

Session One: 27th June 2022 to 15th July 2022

Expand your programme

You can expand your programme by taking more than one subject.

We recommend combining this subject with:

Diseases of the 21st Century: Diabetes, Atherosclerosis, and Obesity

Diseases of the 21st Century: Cancer

Apply now

Find out more about the admissions criteria, programme fees, and how to apply.

Get in touch

If you have any questions, or would like to know more, please do get in touch here.