MEDSCI 705 : Infection, Immunity and Disease

Medical and Health Sciences

2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Examines the ways in which host immune mechanisms control infection, infectious organisms evade host defence mechanisms, and the consequences of these processes for the host. Examples of human infectious diseases will include: HIV, hepatitis B, influenza, tuberculosis and streptococcal infections. Consideration of the consequences of infection will incorporate discussion of immune self/non-self discrimination, immune tolerance and autoimmune mechanisms, including the impact of response against infections on autoimmunity.

Course Overview


The central component of this course is a series of 11 two hour seminars on diverse topics. All seminars, except for the first seminar, will consist of one or two 20 minute student presentations, supplemented by an overview of the topic provided by the teacher, and a wide ranging discussion of the topic, with all students encouraged to participate. 

Seminar 1. The microbiome and its interaction with host regulatory systems. (Assoc Prof Roger Booth)

A discussion of the relationship between the human microbiome, particularly in the gut, and the development of the immune and nervous systems. Also, how changes in the human microbiome brought about by modern lifestyles might have affected the incidence of chronic conditions related to immune and inflammatory systems.

Seminar 2. Implications of host-microbiome relationships. (Assoc Prof Roger Booth)

Discussion of the implications of host-microbiome relationships for understanding aspects of human illness. Also a consideration of what therapeutic options might arise from this.

Seminar 3. How two gut commensals contribute to health. (Assoc Prof Mark Thomas)
Approximately 500-1,000 bacterial species colonise the human gut. We will discuss the role of colonisation by  Akkermanisia muciniphila in the maintenance of normal body weight, and by Clostridium scindens in the prevention of Clostridium difficile colitis.

Seminar 4. How neutrophils control disease caused by Staphylococcus aureus. (Dr Steve Ritchie)

This seminar reviews the many functions of neutrophils. The learning is reinforced by promoting understanding of the interplay between Staphylococcus aureus and neutrophils. Students will also gain experience describing the results/presentation of results of high quality research.

Seminar 5. How complement controls  disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis. (Dr Steve Ritchie)

This seminar reviews complement function and how Neisseria meningitidis avoids complement mediated killing. Regulation of the innate immune system (e.g. complement) is essential to avoid collateral damage to other cells/tissues.

Seminar 6. How antibody controls disease caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. (Assoc Prof Mark Thomas)
Streptococcus pneumoniae  commonly colonises the nasopharynx and is a major cause of diseases of the respiratory tract.  We will discuss the role of S. pneumoniae capsular polysaccharides in the evasion of host defences, and how immunisation with these capsular polysaccharides can prevent diseases caused by S. pneumoniae.

Seminar 7. How Streptococcus pyogenes causes disease. (Dr Jacelyn Loh)
The success of Streptococcus pyogenes as a human pathogen is due to a large arsenal of virulence factors that assist the bacterium with colonisation, spreading, and immune evasion. This seminar will discuss some of the most important virulence factors, their molecular mechanisms, and how they contribute to disease.

Seminar 8. Progress towards a vaccine to prevent Streptococcus pyogenes disease. (Dr Jacelyn Loh)
Streptococcus pyogenes is in the WHO's top ten list of  infectious agents that cause death, and as yet there are no vaccines available to prevent disease. This seminar will discuss current efforts in vaccine development. 

Seminar 9. Prevention and treatment of Ebola by vaccination and antibody treatment. (Assoc Prof Mark Thomas)
Explosive epidemics of disease caused by Ebola virus have occurred in West Africa during 2014-2016, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo during 2018-2019. We will discuss how the knowledge that survivors of Ebola have lifelong immunity led to the development of a highly effective vaccine, and a highly effective monoclonal antibody based treatment.

Seminar 10. Host genetic influences on the outcome of infection. (Dr Bill Abbott)

The prevalence of antibiotic resistance to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection is increasing and new approaches to treatment are needed. The purpose of genetic studies is to identify the human genes that are important in providing protection from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The molecular pathways containing these genes can then be targets of new therapies.

Seminar 11. Antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2. (Dr Reuben McGregor)

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, caused by infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation on 12th March 2020. We will discuss the use of serological testing to measure antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection and the utility of such tests for diagnosis, prevalence studies and investigating immunity.


Students will be required to submit two concise essays, one at the start of week 5, and one at the start of week 7. These essays must contain no more than two single-spaced pages, of 12 point text, and no more than five references. A range of essay topics relevant to the course content will be provided to allow students to choose topics that particularly interest them.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: University

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Understand the range of immune responses that have significant roles in the prevention, and in the elimination, of major microbial diseases. (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Understand the mechanisms used by some major human pathogens to evade host immune responses and cause disease. (Capability 1 and 2)
  3. Understand the strategies, that either have been developed or are under investigation, for the prevention or treatment of disease caused by these major human pathogens. (Capability 2 and 3)
  4. Understand the methods used to investigate host immune responses, pathogen evasion of host immune responses, and the efficacy of preventive or treatment interventions. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Understand and explain the major advances in knowledge of host pathogen interactions described in one or more related articles selected by the teachers of this course. (Capability 1, 2 and 4)
  6. Communicate clearly and succinctly, in two concise essays, a synthesis of relevant up-to date information about two infection related topics, derived from a small number of carefully selected source materials. (Capability 1, 2, 4 and 5)
  7. Communicate in writing, an assessment of presentations provided by fellow students, to assist other students to improve their presentation skills. (Capability 4 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Essay 25% Individual Coursework
Presentation 10% Individual Coursework
Discussions 5% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 60% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Final Exam

Course Contacts

Mark Thomas (Course Coordinator)
Roger Booth (Course co-Coordinator)
Bonnie Zhou (Course Administrator)

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 22 hours of seminars, 72 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 24 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

The course has been evaluated by students in previous years and has consistently received very positive evaluations. In 2019 responses to a SET evaluation were provided by 6/13 enrolled students. In response to the statement:"Overall, I was satisfied with the quality of this course" 3 students responded "agree" and 3 students responded "strongly agree". 
We expect to continue to provide a course that students rate very highly.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 25/06/2020 08:05 a.m.