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Microbiology-History, Branches, Scope, and Importance

October 21, 2022
written by Sidra Batool

A branch of Biology, that deals with the study of all living things that are too small to be seen with the naked eye is called microbiology. Microbes are all bacteria, viruses, fungi, prions, protozoa, and algae. Biodegradation/biodeterioration, cause, and control of disease, climate change, and food spoilage are just some of the important roles being played by microbes like bacteria in the environment.

image showing definition of  Microbiology

Many life-saving drugs are produced by microbes by using different techniques of biotechnology. An important milestone in the history of science was the discovery of microscopic bodies that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye, as it was thought that invisible entities were responsible for decay and disease. These all microbes were thought to be related earlier. As microbiology developed, it was seen that microbes are a large group of organisms that are very different.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the new word “microbes” was used to describe these organisms.

History of Microbiology

For many centuries, the existence of microorganisms was suspected but the development of the microscope was the first step in the evolution of microbiology. The first person to provide proper documentation of his observations was a Dutch draper named Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, whose hobby was lens grinding and making microscopes.

He described the microorganisms from the guts of animals and teeth scrapers. The quality of the magnifying glasses he produced made his records good. Leeuwenhoek wrote several letters to the British royal society.

Although his observations stimulated a lot of interest, no one tried to repeat or prolong them. The curiosity of “animalcules” (microbes) thus remained mere curiosities to the scientists of his day, and enthusiasm for the study of microbes grew slowly.

During the 18th-century revival of a long-standing controversy about whether life can develop out of nonliving material, the significance of organisms in nature and the health and welfare of humans became apparent.

Types of Microorganisms

Below is a list of the major groups of microorganisms.


The main source of microbial was studies of bacteria. The importance of microbes to humans was established in the late 1800s by the experiments of Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur. The germ theory of disease and the germ theory of fermentation was proved by the research of these scientists.

The idea that all bacteria are closely related in evolutionary development was challenged in 1977. The discovery of archaea led to the establishment of new terminology to classify all types of microorganisms.

Today, eubacteria are known as true bacteria. However, the evolutionary relationships between various members of these three groups are difficult to determine. It’s difficult to trace the ancestry of modern microbes back to their earliest forms.


Algae is similar to plants and bacteria to some extinct. Like plant cells, they have rigid cell walls and are similar to bacteria in that they carry out photosynthesis. They are found in moist soil and aquatic environments. Algae constitute a maximum of 120 meters in length.

Microbes are the same as plant and animal cells in that they have a nucleus and DNA present in them. The term Protoctista is used to describe a specific group of organisms, including algae, protozoa, and lower fungi. Some of them are unicellular, and others are multicellular.


Viruses are the smallest microorganisms as 500 million rhinoviruses, (common cold-causing viruses), could fit on the head of a pin. They are unique because they only live and can grow inside other living things. The cell they multiply in is called the host cell.

Viruses rely on host cells to carry out their vital functions, which makes them obligate parasites. The cell’s energy-generating and protein-synthesizing systems are taken over by viruses once they get themselves inside the cell. The viral nucleic acid is carried from one cell to another in a virus. They depend on this host cell to reproduce. This is called viral replication. The viruses can be categorized into two main groups based on the type of nucleic acid type they have. Most viruses are RNA.

There are also some viruses that have both DNA and RNA, but they are less common.

Branches of Microbiology

Microbiology is further categorized into different branches based on the aspects being studied:


This branch deals with the study of bacteria.


This branch deals with the detailed study of fungi.


It deals with the study of protozoans e.g Amoeba.


This branch of microbiology deals with the study of algae.


It deals with the study of parasites.


It deals with the study of the immune system.


It deals with the study of viruses.


It deals with the study of nematodes.

Microbial Cytology

It deals with the study of microscopic and submicroscopic structures of microorganisms.

Microbial Physiology

It deals with the study of the biochemical functions of microorganisms. It also studies microbial growth, microbial metabolism, and their cell structure.

Microbial Pathogenesis

It deals with the study of pathogens which happen to be microbes.

Microbial Ecology

It deals with the relationship between microorganisms and their environment.

Scope of Microbiology

One of the most important fields of biology is the field of microbiology. It has helped us to understand the causes of diseases, discover new treatments, and even to use them in industry. A microbiologist (with a minimum bachelor’s degree) can work in dairy farms, pathology labs, food and nutrition companies, the agriculture sector, research departments, chemical industries, pharmaceutical companies, and biotechnology firms.

Here are the fields you can choose to be a professional in microbiology:

• Medicine

• Clinical microbiologist

• Research microbiologist immunologist

• Clinical biochemist

• Toxicologist

• Nanotechnology

• Food microbiologist

• Research scientist

• Water industry

• Environmental microbiologist

• Fermentation technologist

• Pharmacologist

Importance of Microbiology

In order for a patient whose immune system is always at risk of being affected by any microbe, to remain safe and healthy when he is in the hands of a nursing professional, the healthcare professional needs to have better understanding of microorganisms.

Microbiology helps in the identification, isolation, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, as well as in producing beneficial organisms, such as yeasts and antibiotics.

Waste can be biodegraded with the help of microorganisms. Soil bioremediation, landfills, and mari-culture are some examples of this.

The ability of a microorganism to breakdown toxins depends on the nature of the contaminants, and a symbiotic community is beneficial to both the host and the other members of the community.

There are studies showing that it’s possible to cure cancer by using probiotic products. Clostridia are bacteria used to deliver therapeutic drugs to the body.

Latest Research In Field Of Microbiology

  • Scientists have found that experimental bias in microbial inactivation experiments can result in inaccurate meta-regression models for Microbial Risk Assessments. They propose a method to identify and mitigate this bias in datasets to improve model accuracy and suggest it be included in data analysis guidelines. [1]
  • Scientists compared pre-referral microbiology to deep tissue samples taken during surgery in 141 patients with long bone infection. Pre-referral microbiology was a non-match in 65.9% of samples, with increased risk from presence of sinus, long time from sampling, and previous surgical sampling. [2]
  • Scientists conducted a retrospective study on 103 patients with facial skin and soft tissue infections. They found that most infections were caused by epidermal cysts, and 55.8% of the microorganisms were resistant to antibiotics. No significant risk factors for resistance were identified. [3]