Curriculum & Course Descriptions


BS7018 Introduction to diagnostic virology

Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Richard Sugrue   (email: 
Availability: Semester 2

The field of diagnostic microbiology is a fast growing area that has many uses in both the clinical and environmental settings. Rapid and confirmatory diagnosis of suspected infectious disease is essential for timely intervention. In addition, with the advent of new and emerging infectious disease, the rapid identification of infectious disease agents whose identity is unknown is a challenge. This is essential for the implementation of public health policy to control a disease outbreak. Therefore there will be an increasing need for scientists that are trained in diagnostic techniques, who can apply these technologies in a variety of different settings. From basic clinical virology where clinical specimens will be examined in the hospital, to environmental virology where environmental specimens that are derived from air, soil or water will be examined.  In this course the diagnostic tools that are currently used for the identification of virus agents will be described. This will range from methodologies that employ targeted nucleic acid based and immunological based techniques for the rapid-identification of known virus agents, to other techniques that can be employed for the identification of new virus agents that cannot be detected by targeted identification. These techniques are usually used in combination so as to increase the confidence of agent identification. Although the focus of this course will be viral agents, the range of techniques that will be described are also applicable to many other microbiological agents. The knowledge gained in the course can be used as an entry point for students who wish to pursue a career in diagnostic microbiology. 
  1. What is diagnostic virology?
  2. Importance of specimen preparation and where are they handled.
  3. Introduction to diagnostic PCR.
  4. Real-time PCR; in the lab and field.
  5. The application of NGS to diagnostic virology.
  6. Phylogenetic analysis of virus sequences.
  7. Immunological detection in the clinical setting.
  8. Diagnostic electron microscopy.
Upon successfully completing this course, students should be able to:
  • Understand the unique challenges of diagnostic virology.
  • To understand the challenges faced in specimen handling.
  • To understand the concept of biological safety level in relation to diagnostic virology.
  • To understand the differences between target and non-targeted identification.
  • To gain experience of performing targeted identification.
  • To gain experience in performing non-targeted identification.
  • To suggest strategies to perform an analysis of an unknown biological sample -Scenario-based (Analysis I).
  • To be able to perform an analysis of an unknown biological sample that will be provided (Analysis II).