Welcome to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
There is a good reason why the disciplines of Microbiology and Immunology have traditionally been linked together in many of the world-renowned universities such as McGill. Microbes that infect humans are confronted by the immune system and in most instances this results in clearance of the infection without disease. Understanding this process has resulted in much of what we understand about the immune system and how it works. This knowledge helps to generate new immune therapies and in the development of vaccines. Likewise, when infections do cause disease, this helps to understand how pathogenic microbes are transmitted and how they subvert the immune response.
Understanding virus replication inside cells has also helped to identified human genes that control cell replication and by extension the development of cancer. Among the most important advances in immunology in recent years has been the recognition that the immune system can be harnessed to produce a powerful anti-tumor response that like microbes are recognized as dangerous invaders. Understanding this process is providing new therapies that now successfully treat thousands of people with cancer.
Microbiology also provides a unique window into global health since many infections are restricted to the developing world and populations living in poverty. For example, understanding why pathogens such as mycobacteria (causes Tuberculosis) and Plasmodium (causes Malaria) kill so many people goes beyond the biological sciences and involves epidemiology, politics, economics, anthropology, geography and other disciplines. The appreciation of microbiology like few other discipline crosses borders and provides a better understanding of the world we live in.
Dr. Greg Matlashewski
Interim Chair, Department of Microbiology & Immunology