Clinical/Medical microbiologists are specialist doctors that oversee the diagnosis and treatment of infections caused by microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria or fungi. They undergo training in general internal medicine for at least two years post medical school to complete a further five years studying infections and how to treat them (UK). Their work involves seeing patients in the wards and clinics in addition to working with scientists in the laboratory to ensure the correct diagnosis of infections. They also promote measures to prevent the spread of infections both in hospitals and in the community.
Despite advances in health care; infections remain a leading cause of death worldwide. In addition, bugs are becoming more resistant to our current arsenal of antibiotics, with more people suffering from difficult to treat infections, requiring specialist input. Medical microbiologists are at the frontier of this fight against “superbugs” and support teams manage such difficult to treat infections. They play a key role in developing policies for antibiotic use ensuring that the right antibiotic is given to the right patients and reducing inappropriate and unnecessary prescriptions.
Microbiologist work closely with the different teams – including surgeons, physicians, scientists (technologists) and pharmacists. Their day to day work may involve seeing bugs under a microscope or a patient with a multidrug resistant pneumonia on a ventilator.
Clinical microbiologist in the United Kingdom also lead the Outpatient Parenteral Antibiotic Services (OPAT) clinics, which enables intravenous antibiotics to be provided to patients in their own homes.