Micro means small or tiny. Biology is the study of life. Microbiology is the study of microscopic entities or life forms. However, that is not completely true.
Do you have a dog or cat? What does a vet do when you take it to the vet? They check the dog out physically, perform blood work, they check their fecal matter, etc. The feces may not contain a foot long tape worm, however, their rudimentary forms may be invisible to the naked eye. So even though worms are visible to the naked eye, the eggs or larvae are microscopic. Same goes for fungi because the spores of a visible mushroom are microscopic. So fungi and worms are microscopic at certain stages of their life and therefore part of the world of microbiology.
Microbiology is based on the following types of microbes:
Viruses are made of DNA and don’t have a cell structure. (acellular)
Viroids are made of RNA (acellular plant pathogens).
Prions are even more spectacularly weird: They are protein without any DNA. (acellular)
Bacteria: unicellular / prokaryotic (and we have diff types of bacteria, Archaea versus true bacteria)
Protozoa: unicellular / eukaryotic
Fungi: multicellular / eukaryotic
All microbial entities to date, with the exception of algae are pathogens.
Disciplines within the field of microbiology
These are different ways of looking at microbiology to show you that it’s highly varied with multiple disciplines. There is considerable overlap between the specific branches of microbiology with each other and with other disciplines.
Taxonomic approach: Bacteriology, mycology (fungi), phycology (algae), protozoology, parasitology, and virology.
Functional/applied approach: Medical microbiology, immunology, industrial, agricultural, food, microbial ecology, molecular biology and many others.
Why should you know microbiology?
Clinical Practice: You can’t really practice as a competent health care professional without knowing microbiology because you’re going to see people with these problems.
Patient Advocacy: If your patients don’t think you care about them, then they’re not going to respond to you. When you go through your residency, you have to have a cure plan done by 7am the following day and that builds up competence to restore your patients health the best.
Dominant Role in Healthcare: Who spends the most time with the patient in a hospital? Nurse. Who is more important? Nurse. You’re the liaison between the patient and doctor.
Reports, reports, reports. Should you call the doctor? Should you isolate this patient? Am I in any danger? If someone has MRSA are you going to allow them to just hang out in the cafeteria?