When we talk about someone who works in microbiology, we’re really talking about two different things:
1. A Doctor, who has done a medical degree, specialises in the field of microbiology, and treats patients with infections.
2. A Scientist, who works in a microbiology laboratory, or does research related to microbiology, who has done a basic science or microbiology degree. This may be a Biomedical scientist, who works in a hospital, or many other different jobs.
There is a degree of overlap – some Microbiologists do further training, and can work in hospitals advising about the treatment of patients with infections, and many doctors may go into labwork or research.
In our hospital, one of the emergency or acute medicine Doctors will see most patients with common infections who need to come to hospital. They will send off blood tests, including samples of blood, sputum or urine, from patients with a suspected infection.
In the microbiology laboratory, a team of biomedical scientists will run the tests on these samples, growing the bacteria in the laboratory, and finding out what bacteria or viruses are there, and what treatment will be effective. There are also Microbiologists who work in this laboratory, both doctors and non-doctors, who help oversee the work, and interpret results.
The results of tests from the Microbiology laboratory will be entered into computer systems, so the Doctors looking after the patients can find out how to treat the patients. If the patient has a difficult-to-treat or severe infection, specialist Microbiology Doctors will advise, or even admit the patient to a specialist Infectious Diseases ward. Other specialties may also become involved if the patient needs a particular treatment (e.g. surgery to an infected gall bladder, or neurosurgery for a brain abscess).
For more information about Microbiology as a Career:
Some information about Microbiology as a specialty for Doctors: