BIOU8ID: Immunology and Disease

CO-ORDINATOR: Dr Matt Tinsley

Prerequisites: Animal Ecology (BIOU6AE) or The Animal Cell (BIOU6AC)

Module Description

Parasites are a potent selective force: within the worldwide human population infectious diseases cause over 11 million deaths annually. The immune system of hosts in turn creates a uniquely hostile environment for parasite survival. Hosts and their pathogens are linked in a continuous evolutionary arms race: selection on the host population to defend against parasites results in counter-selection on the parasite population to evade host immunity. This is one of the fiercest of all coevolutionary battles and it can drive extremely rapid adaptive change. This course will explore the consequences of host-parasite interactions for the evolution of pathogen populations and for the host immune system. It will focus particularly on the impact of coevolution on the diversity of attack and defence strategies in parasites and their hosts.

Module Objectives

  • To develop an understanding of how coevolutionary processes have shaped the evolution of host immune responses and parasite virulence strategies.
  • To understand how ecological and evolutionary processes interact to determine disease dynamics in human and animal populations.
  • To test relevant student knowledge under exam conditions.

Learning Outcomes

  • To understand the mechanisms underlying immune responses in vertebrates and invertebrates.
  • Knowledge of the mechanisms promoting genetic and phenotypic variability in hosts and parasites.
  • Detailed knowledge of the factors determining the ecological dynamics of selected case-study diseases.

Acquired skills

  • Ability to understand, synthesise and critically evaluate research material in this specialised field.
  • Present scientific information in essay format.
  • Communication of scientific information orally in presentations and discussions.


Scheduled Teaching: 19 hours
Independent Study: 81 hours
Placements: 0 hours


Coursework: 40%
Examination: 60%
Practical: 0%

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