Infectious diseases cause a great burden to the world, with millions of illnesses and deaths still attributable to diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, dengue, and many others. With global environmental and behavioural changes, and the innate ability of microorganisms to evolve rapidly, we are constantly faced with newly emerging infections. In recent years, Malaysia has experienced enterovirus 71, Nipah and Chikungunya virus outbreaks for the first time. Worldwide, emerging threats include avian influenza, SARS, and antibiotic resistance.
Medical microbiology is the study of bacteria, viruses, and fungi which are of medical importance to man. Aspects of medical microbiology that can be studied include molecular and cellular biology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations of infectious diseases, epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment .
The Department of Medical Microbiology has extensive experience in teaching, research, and diagnostic services in the three main branches of bacteriology, virology, and mycology. Nipah virus was first discovered here, and the department is also known for its work on dengue, enterovirus 71, melioidosis, and HIV, amongst others. TheTropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre (TIDREC) is located in the department, and is the hub of most of the research and surveillance activities. The WHO National Influenza Centre and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Reference & Research are also located within the department.
The academic department is located in Block N, 2nd floor, Faculty of Medicine, in UM, and can be contacted at: +603-7967 6660/6661. The diagnostic laboratories are situated on the 5th floor of Menara Timur, in UMMC, and can be contacted at: +603-7949 2804.
The Department of Medical Microbiology was formed in 1964, and its first head of department was Professor H.B. Maitland. Other lecturers in those initial years included Karthigesu and V. Krishnapillay (who both also served as heads), T.S. Soo-Hoo, S.K. Lam, V. How, B. Ong, and S. Puthucheary. Initially, the department’s role was mainly to teach undergraduate medical students, but the role gradually expanded to include research, diagnostic services for the hospital, and helping the Ministry of Health with investigations into infectious disease outbreaks. Following the Hong Kong flu pandemic, the department was designated a WHO National Influenza Centre in 1969, and continues to be involved in the global surveillance of influenza today.
In the 1970s, Professors Sandiford and then Wilson came from the United Kingdom to head the department and help develop it further. Subsequent heads of department were Professors K.H. Chai (1978-1981), S. Puthucheary (1981-1983), S. Arseculeratne (1984-1986), S.K. Lam (1987-2000), Hamimah Hassan (2000-2004), and the current head, Sazaly Abu Bakar.
Key events during this time included the designation of the department as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Dengue (1982), and the discovery of Nipah virus (1999), for which the department was awarded the Nikkei Asia Prize for Technological Innovation in 2002. The department’s roles in diagnostics, teaching, and research have continued to grow, and have been enhanced by new technologies such as molecular techniques.
The department is heavily involved in teaching students from many programs, including:
Research Activities in the Department of Medical Microbiology
The academic staff are experienced and committed to producing high-class research on any aspect of microbiology and infection. The department is known for its work on dengue, enterovirus 71, Nipah virus, melioidosis, HIV, mycology, and Salmonella, amongst others. The staff have published in international peer-reviewed scientific journals and presented their work at national and international conferences. The department is actively involved in postgraduate research programs leading to Master of Medical Science and PhD degrees.
The Department of Medical microbiology has been designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Reference and Research (Dengue and Dengue Harmorrhagic Fever) for the past 25 years since June 1982.
The department is committed to ensuring the highest quality in their functions of diagnostic service, teaching, and research.