What branch of microbiology deals with fighting disease

What branch deals with the creation of vaccines, antibiotics, etc in an effort to fight diseases created by microbes? Is it immunology, or some other field?

On another note, what branch deals with fighting other diseases like cancer which are not due to a foreign microbe? is that also immunology?

Oncology - The study of tumors and cancer.
Immunology - The study of the body’s immune system and its functions and disorders. (not quite what you’re looking for)
Pharmacology - the study of how chemical substances interact with living systems.

I would think vaccinations fall more into the science of immunology, but I’m no biologist.

Oncology isn’t really the study of cancer so much as the treatment of it. I study the molecular mechanisms of metastic cancer, but nobody’d call me an oncologist; my friend with an MD who’s going to do her fellowship in oncology and see patients will be one.

Cancer researchers occasionally will call themselves cancer biologists or something like that, but most often they’ll identify more with how they go about studying a problem rather than by the specific problem they’re studying. I’d call myself a cell biologist more than anything else.

Actual drug development tends to be done by biochemists and organic chemists, I think. You’d probably get vaccine research and stuff like that in a bunch of different subspecialties, like microbiology, virology, immunology, maybe pathology. Disciplines in biology blur into one another; there aren’t any clear demarcating lines.

I’m not entirely clear on the question being asked, so my apologies if I’m misunderstanding you, and I’m also in the UK so my answer may not be a good description of the system in the US, so I apologise if I’m off-target in that respect. However, I’d like to try and clear up some of the field descriptions as there are some very common misconceptions which I think you might be suffering from.

Microbiology as an academic study/research is, as far as I know, study of bacteria. It’s not my area and I don’t know much about it, but I guess it might cover viruses as well, though I doubt it.

Microbiology labs * in a hospital* look for (usually by culturing) bacteria from blood, urine, faeces, CSF and swab samples. They also usually test the bacteria they grow for sensitivity towards different antibiotics. They often also do testing for viruses, often by looking for antibodies to those virus in the blood. Some labs test the levels of certain antibiotics in patients’ blood (because some antibiotics have very narrow therapeutic ranges and can be dangerous at not much over the required dose but the patient may be in danger from the infection if they don’t get enough). However in some hospitals this is done by the biochemistry lab.

Biochemistry labs * in a hospital* test for all sorts of things in blood, urine, CSF, and occaisionally other fluids. These include ions, trace metals, blood gases, amino acids, sugars, fats, peptides, proteins, enzymes, hormones, drugs (both illegal and prescribed to check levels) and antibodies and they may be looking for things that are only present in disease, absent in disease, raised or lowered in disease etc etc. Depending on the hospital, biochemistry might also provide genetic testing and or immunology testing (though some hopstials have an independant genetics and or immunology department and some don’t do any at all and send samples to other labs). Biochemistry (* in a hospital*) doesn’t normally look at cells at all. Some cancers release particular molecules (tumour markers) and the levels of these can be tested to follow the progress of disease and/or see if treatment is working and this is usually done by biochemistry.

Immunology labs generally cover allergy testing and autoimmune diseases and I believe they mainly do this by looking for antibodies.

Histopathology look at cells to determine if biopsy samples are from tumours and also look for patterns distinctive to other types of disease (eg TB produces very distinctive patterns of cells).

Haematology look for blood cells (both red and white) and counts them, measures the size and haemoglobin content to determine things like whether the patient is anaemic, has an infection (raised levels of white cells), whether a patient with HIV has reduced white cell count and also tends to deal with patients with blood cancers (eg leukaemia, myeloma).

All of these hospital labs are often covered by the general term Pathology.

As others have said, oncology is usually cancer treatment and phamacology is the developement of drugs.
As I say (and is obvious from my spelling!) my knowledge is about the UK system and I don’t have a detailed knowledge of any discipline other than biochemistry, so I hope if I got anything wrong someone will correct me.

Finally (this may be my longest ever post), Wesley but you are a chemistry graduate looking for a career/your next move. You seem to be developing a strong interest in medical stuff. This is exactly where I was 18 months ago. I don’t know what the career options in the US are for working in medical biochemistry from a non-medical background, but I really suggest you look into it, because YOU WILL LOVE IT. I’m absolutely convinced of it. You can email me (my username here at hotmail.com) if you’re keen to know more about it.

Therapeutic cancer vaccines (i.e. vaccines to treat rather than prevent cancer) certainly fall under immunology. Traditional chemotherapy and radiotherapy obviously don’t. And, by the way, some viruses do cause cancer - e.g. Human Papilloma Virus and cervical cancer.

Rekkah, it’s pretty much exactly as you describe in Canada too. Although you forgot my favorite dept., bloodbank!

You know, halfway through my lecture this afternoon I was kicking myself for forgetting to mention that Haematology departments often also cover blood transfusions but that in the UK the actual blood banking is a completely separate organistion - they provide the blood, but the haematology service test patients to see what type they need and dispense it. Haematology also generally deal with bone marrow diseases and transplants.

I was really interested to hear it’s the same in Canada, I wasn’t sure how much of the department structure would be the same.

On re-reading the thread I see I was off on a bit of a tangent, probably caused by my sensitivity to the fact that so many people assume “working hospital lab”=microbiologist. Sorry about that.

Slightly more on-topic would be to say that pharmacologists design drugs using information from fields like immunology, biochemistry and microbiology but are conventionally a seperate independant field of research. For example: Biochemists find out that a certain molecule are neurotransmitter that has a particular effect (eg slows down the heart, make you happy) and pharmacologists design and experiment with similar molecules to see whether they will act with a similar or opposing effect when given as a drug. However, this is still a fairly hit-and-miss process as there are a lot of factors in the way that drugs act that can’t be fully understood or predicted.

IS! That should have been “a certain molecule IS a neurotransmitter”.

Epidemiology might be what you’re looking for.