Friday, July 23, 2021

Introduction to Pharmaceutical Microbiology

by | February 14, 2021 0

Microbiology is a branch of biology dealing with the study of microorganisms that is, organisms that are usually too small to be seen clearly with unaided eye. These organisms include bacteria, viruses, protozoa, many algae and fungi. Some members of these groups, particularly some of the algae and fungi, are larger and quite visible.  Two bacteria that are visible without a microscope, Thiomargarita and Epulopiscium, also have been discovered.

The need to study these minute organisms started when some investigators suspected their existence and responsibility for disease.  It took the invention of the first microscope by Antoin Van Leeuwenhoek in 1676 to confirm their existence. Since their discovery, microorganisms have been studied extensively and today their impact in human life is much better understood.

Microbiology is made up of several sub-disciplines, including bacteriology (the science and study of bacteria), parasitology (the study of parasites), and virology (the study of viruses, their characteristics, classification, and the relationship with their respective hosts). These broad areas encompass a number of specific fields some of which include immunology (the study of both the structure and functioning of the immune system); pathogenic microbiology (the study of disease-causing microorganisms and the disease process (epidemiology and etiology)); microbial genetics (which is linked to molecular biology); food microbiology (studying the effects of food spoilage), pharmaceutical microbiology (the study of microorganisms associated with the manufacture of pharmaceuticals), etc.

The microbiological discipline of relevance here is pharmaceutical microbiology, an applied branch of microbiology which according to Tim Sandle was once considered as an off-shoot of industrial microbiology but now a distinct field.

What is pharmaceutical microbiology all about?

Pharmaceutical microbiology is the application of microbiology to pharmaceutical and healthcare environments. It is an applied branch of microbiology which recognizes that the extremely wide variety of microorganisms in the environment is fertile with potentials, some for utility and others for hazard. Areas of utility include the fermentation of suitable substrate for the production of drugs, food supplements, and industrial solvents, as well as the development of the many vaccines that have been so crucial to the improvement in world health.

Pharmaceutical microbiology also provides knowledge and understanding with respect to the significance of the presence of wide variety of microorganisms and toxins (microbial by-products like endotoxins and pyrogens) in pharmaceutical raw materials, intermediates, finished products and pharmaceutical production environments, as well as the microbiological control of pharmaceutical products, production environments, and people.

Read Also: Microorganisms of Pharmaceutical Interest

The scope of pharmaceutical microbiology is wide ranging. However, its overriding function is the safe manufacture of pharmaceutical and healthcare preparations and medical devices. This involves risk assessment (both proactive and reactive), together with testing materials and monitoring environments and utilities.

Microbiological contamination becomes a problem when it results in deterioration of pharmaceutical products. In drawing from risk assessment terminology, pharmaceutical microbiology centers on

  1. Understanding the likelihood of product contamination arising
  2. Understanding the severity of such contamination
  3. Considering ways to minimize contamination; and, where contamination cannot be satisfactorily mitigated, using established and developing new methods to detect contamination.

Important events that mark the history of pharmaceutical microbiology

Some of the important events that mark the history of pharmaceutical microbiology are listed below

Discoverer Important Events
Edward Jenner (1729–1799) Discovery of smallpox vaccine.
Justus von Liebig (1803–1873) Conceptualized the physicochemical theory of fermentation
Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis
First and foremost introduced the application of antiseptics.
Joseph Lister (1827–1912) Developed aseptic techniques: isolated bacteria in pure culture
Fanny Hesse (1850–1934) Suggested use of agar as a solidifying material for the preparation of microbiological media.
Paul Ehrlich (1854–1915) Developed modern concept of chemotherapy and chemotherapeutic agents
Hans Christian Gram (1853 –1933) Invented vital and important procedures for differential Gram staining of microorganisms i.e., the well-known Gram Stain.
August von Wassermann
Developed complement-fixation test for syphilis.
Martinus Willem Beijerinck
Employed the principles of enrichment cultures: confirmed finding of the very first virus.
Frederick W. Twort (1877–1950) and Felix H.d’ Herelle (1873–1949) Discovered independently the bacteriophages i.e., viruses that destroy bacteria.


1. Ezeonu, I., Okafor, J. and Ogbonna, J. (2011). Laboratory Exercise in Microbiology: A Practical Manual for Students of Tertiary Institutions. Nigeria: Ephrata Printing and Publishing Company.

2. Kar, A. (2008). Pharmaceutical Microbiology. New Delhi: New Age International (P) Ltd.

3. Okore, V. (2009). Principles of Pharmaceutical Microbiology (2nd). Nigeria: Ephrata Publishers.

4. Sandle, T, (2016). Pharmaceutical Microbiology: Essentials for Quality Assurance and Quality Control. UK: Elsevier Ltd.

5. Satyajit, D. (2015). Pharmaceutical Microbiology: An Applied Branch of Microbiology. Journal of Pharmaceutical Microbiology, 1, 1.

Related Keywords: Pharmaceutical microbiology slideshare

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