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What is microbiology?

Picture of a male pathologist, labeling a specimen

Microbiology is the study of microorganisms--specifically, disease-causing microorganisms. Microbiology is responsible for identifying infectious agents in blood, urine, sputum, feces, cerebrospinal fluid, and other body fluids. The infectious agents are then tested for sensitivity to certain antibiotics used to treat infections.

Microbiology uses various techniques to identify microorganisms, including the following:

  • Chemical, immunological, and genetic tests
  • Examination under a microscope
  • Staining

Microorganisms can include the following:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Parasites
  • Viruses

Common microbiology tests

Blood culture Can diagnose bacterial infections of the blood
Culture and sensitivity of burns and wounds Can identify disease-causing organisms and test for effectiveness of antibiotics
Sputum culture Can identify lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia
Stool culture Can identify parasites that cause disease, such as pinworms
Urine culture Can identify disease-causing organisms in the kidneys and urinary tract

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