Cellular microbiology and immunology

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
At the end of this course the students will have a good knowledge of the main host-pathogen interaction mechanisms. The course addresses the concepts of bacterial virulence and pathogenicity, starting from the differences between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cellular structures, focusing on the microbial metabolism and microbial genetics, and moving to the concepts of infectious disease or foodborne diseases.
During the course we will debate the main components of the innate and adaptive immune system involved in the pathogen recognition and clearance, focusing on the main immune-escape mechanisms, and the establishment of chronic infection and inflammation.
In addition, the course will analyze the critical role that microbiota plays in human metabolism (composition and bacterial function) and health (immunological functions, promotion of intestinal homeostasis). Finally, we will further analyze the concept of dysbiosis and the Gut-brain axis, as well as, the ways in which the microbial community is perturbed in dysbiotic disease states.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, students will be able to describe the differences between commensal bacteria and pathogens, to understand the mechanisms of bacterial pathogenicity. In addition, students will be able to describe the role and function of the main components of innate and adaptive immune system, and to define the main mechanisms of host-pathogen interaction. Finally, students will have acquired a solid knowledge on the different pathogenic diseases caused by an altered immune response, the main evasion strategies used by pathogens to escape the immune system, and will be able to identify the most appropriate prevention or treatment strategies.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
The course is held in the first semester.
During the COVID-19 emergency phase, lectures will be made in synchronous mode on Microsoft Tams platform, supported by PowerPoint presentations which will be also made available online (asynchronous mode) to the students. The students, during on-line lessons, are invited to actively participate in the discussion both to improve their critical skills and to re-elaborate the concepts acquired during the lessons.
Both video lessons (asynchronous mode) and teaching materials in PDF format will be made available online to the Ariel site. In addition, a forum will be activated on the Ariel site of the course, to facilitate interaction with the teacher, and discussion sessions will be organized for students' questions related to the teaching topics.

Program and reference materials
The program and the reference materials will not change concerning what is indicated in the syllabus.

Exam and evaluation criteria
As indicated in the syllabus, the exam consists of an oral test. The exam information (in the presence, in compliance with the regulations, or on-line through the Microsoft Teams platform) will be made available on the Ariel website of the course. The evaluation criteria will not change and are those reported in the syllabus. The evaluation criteria will not change compared to those reported in the syllabus.
Course syllabus
Microorganisms: taxonomy, virulence factors and pathogenicity. Role and relevance of microorganisms in foods. Foodborne diseases: virulence factors and pathogenic mechanisms, bacterial toxins, adherence and invasion mechanisms.
Innate immunity: physical and chemical barriers. Role and functions of epithelial cells and antimicrobial peptides. Macrophages and neutrophils, NETs formation, natural killer cells and dendritic cells: mechanisms of phagocytes and bacterial evasion strategies.
Antigen-presenting cells: MHC-I and MHC-II, mechanism of antigen-presentation and recognition in bacterial infections.
Adaptive immunity: CD8+ and CD4+ T lymphocytes. Antigen-specificity of T-cells and mechanisms used by pathogenic bacteria to avoid adaptive immunity.
Microbiota: composition, phyla and enterotypes. Gut Microbiota: microbial-microbial and host-microbial interactions. "OMICS"-technologies to study human microbiota: metagenomics and metatranscriptomics. Dysbiosis: microbiota alterations in human diseases and immune evasion strategies of pathogenic microorganisms. Analysis and characterization of gut microbiota in the pathogenesis of different chronic inflammatory diseases.
Probiotics, prebiotics, postbiotics, genetically engineered probiotics and Fecal-microbiota Transplantation: immuno-modulatory effects and possible clinical application in Dysbiosis-associated diseases.
Gut-Brain axis and Gut-lung axis: mechanism of bidirectional communication between microbiota and the central/enteric nervous system, and lung microbiota and chronic lung inflammation. Intestinal microbiome alteration and its relationship to neurodegenerative diseases (Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson). Dysbiosis in Lung microbiota and its relationship to chronic inflammatory airways diseases (Asthma, Cystic Fibrosis, COPD).
Overview of virology, vaccines and reverse vaccinology.
Prerequisites for admission
Basic skills in microbiology are recommended.
Teaching methods
The lectures are supported by PowerPoint presentations which are made available to the students. The students are invited to actively participate in the discussion both to improve their critical skills, and to re-elaborate the concepts acquired during the lessons.
Teaching Resources
The following books may be used as reference texts:
- Principi di microbiologia medica (Antonelli - Clementi - Pozzi - Rossolini)
- Biologia dei microrganismi (Dehò-Galli)
Also, all the PowerPoint presentations will be made available, together with scientific papers, as an aid to the student.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The acquisition of knowledge and the achievement of the expected learning outcomes are verified through an oral test. The test aims to evaluate both the competences of cellular microbiology, in particular on bacterial virulence and pathogenesis, as well as the competences concerning the interactions of pathogens and commensal bacteria with the immune system.
The student can also present a scientific paper, chosen between those discussed during the lectures. The assessment will also take into account the ability to discuss and comment with a correct scientific language.
The final grade is expressed in 30/30.
BIO/19 - MICROBIOLOGY - University credits: 6
Lessons: 48 hours
Professor: Paroni Moira
Educational website(s)