Can I study microbiology after mbbs?

How do you actually become a virologist?

Drosten, Kekulé, Streeck, Ciesek. The names have been in the media for a year now. As virologists, they regularly submit their expert assessments. We asked ourselves: How do you actually become a virologist? What is the virology? And what professional fields are there?

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Representation of the coronavirus COVID-19



The four virologists mentioned have one thing in common: They all studied human medicine. But do you inevitably have to complete a medical degree in order to deal professionally with small pathogens? Not necessarily. It all depends on where your interests lie and what you imagine your future career to be. But before we show you various training paths that qualify you for a job in virology, let's start in general:

1. What is virology? 🦠

Virology is that Doctrine of Viruses. Virology will either be the Microbiology (sub-discipline of biology) or the medicine assigned. Within medicine it belongs to this area Microbiology, virology and infection epidemiology.

There are two basic areas of responsibility of a virologist:

  1. Those who become virologists characterize known viruses, assign them to classes and research the properties of viruses. The discovery of new viruses also takes place through virology.

  2. Furthermore, virology deals with the prevention and cure of infections that have been caused virally. Virologists deal with the pathogenic microorganisms and initiate lengthy test processes, e.g. to find out which agents can be used against viruses (development of vaccines) and how high the dosage must be. Virologists are also developing new research methods to facilitate research into viruses.

The following applies to all of these tasks: One International Exchange with other experts is very important in virology.

Advising treating physicians or quality management within a hospital or training staff can also be part of the tasks of virologists.

For the tasks that are explicitly related to the question: "What does the virus do in the human body? ”, Virologists who have studied human medicine are usually employed.

Virologists work mostly in the laboratory and has no direct contact with the patient and yet play a major role for the sick. Because without virological research, for example, no vaccines could be developed.

Risky job 😷

Although viruses are barely visible, some virologists are working on the most dangerous jobs of the world. Viruses are not harmless, especially when they are new - the current crisis is the best example of this. Like all other biological substances, viruses are also classified into risk groups of 1-4 according to certain criteria, with 4 being the highest level. Depending on what is being researched, laboratories are categorized into different security levels and must comply with certain security measures. So the researchers are wearing one here great responsibility.

There are four high-security class 4 laboratories in Germany, one of which is the Institute for Virology in Marburg. Research is carried out here in protective suits that look like astronauts' clothing - but only after having passed several locks that are secured with numerous codes and keys. And because it is warm in the suits and also very noisy thanks to the ventilation, you can only spend a few hours in these suits. After work, you have to go through two showers: first a chemical one, then a normal one. The work of the virologist also requires physical exertion and measures.

Incidentally, the new type of coronavirus was classified in risk group 3 - Protection level 3, here too there are similarly strict regulations as in protection level 4 and great caution is required during research.

Virologists save lives

Since viruses can spread very quickly and create pandemics like the current one, the profession of virologist is very important. Even if you have no patient contact, indirectly save many lives. If you want to become a virologist, you should still be able to work well with people, because the exchange with other scientists is a fundamental part of the work.


2. How do you become a virologist? 👩🏼🎓🧑🏻🎓

First of all: The subject “virology” does not exist.

The path to virology very tedious and a degree prerequisite *. The classic way is initially through a study of the Human medicine disputed. The prerequisite for this is usually very good knowledge of natural science subjects through the Abitur. During your studies you will then already complete practical phases in laboratories and hospitals.

This is followed by a Specialist training in microbiology, virology and infection epidemiology