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Infectious Agents and Immunity


Admission requirements

Students should be familiar with the contents of the course “Immunology” before starting in this course.


This course focuses on infectious agents and (un)successful interactions with host immune responses and anti-infectives at the cellular and molecular level. The program consists of sections on 1) the characteristics of the various classes of pathogens (viruses, bacteria and parasites), 2) immune evasion strategies and successful immune responses to infectious agents, 3) electives focusing on challenges in the field of infectious diseases, beneficial bacterial/parasite-host interactions, and treatment/prevention strategies, and 4) a research project on issues related to infection and immunity. Sections 1-3 start with an introductory lecture and comprise several self-study assignments. The assignments will be discussed and elaborated upon in workgroup meetings. Sample exam questions will be discussed during the workgroup meetings in order to prepare the students for the exam. Furthermore, State-of-the-Art lectures on specific topics in the field of immune evasion will be offered to the students to broaden and deepen their knowledge of infectious agents and their interactions with immune systems and anti-infectives. Moreover, students will be challenged to design and carry out experiments (in the field of infection and immunity) in the laboratories of the participating tutors. The results of these lab-projects will be presented at a symposium.

Course objectives

The student will be able to:

  • exploit the expanding knowledge (of the structure, functional activities, life cycles, transmission/epidemiology and genetics) of pathogens in order to understand the pathogenesis of infections.

  • explain the mechanistic/immunologic basis of strategies employed by pathogens to evade 1) the host defense systems and 2) anti-infective strategies with major societal impact (antibiotics, vaccines).

  • critical read and present (understand and explain) selected scientific papers in the field of infectious agents and immunity

  • to use basic immunological techniques to design, perform, discuss and present experiments in the field of infectious agents and immunity.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, self-study assignments, workgroup meetings, State-of-the-Art lectures, lab project (practical), scientific literature, symposium, self-assessment (E-learning and interim tests), sample exam.

Assessment method

The final exam consists of ten open questions and the score is 80% of the final mark (the remainder being participation in the lab project and the presentation at the symposium) for this module. (10% is participation in the lab project and 10% is the final presentation)
Exam dates can be found on: Onderwijsroosters.

Reading list

  • Module book Infectious Agents and Immunity, Leiden, 2016.

  • Primary literature (see dedicated black board site, module book) and

  • Peter Parham, ‘’The Immune System” ISBN: 978-0-8153-4466-7, 4th ed. (2015)


All course information can be consulted on the dedicated Black Board site.

Information for exchange students

This module is part of an English taught semester of the bachelor’s programme in Biomedical Sciences at Leiden University Medical Center. Combining biomedical modules with modules from other programmes in Leiden is difficult or impossible due to different scheduling schemes. Exchange students* with sufficient relevant background knowledge in biology/biomedicine are therefore encouraged and advised to choose the entire module package indicated below (September – end of December 2016).

  • Immunology (BW), 9 EC

  • Infectious Agents And Immunity, 6 EC

  • Physiology, Basic Concepts, 8 EC

  • Communication in Science for Exchange students, 2 EC

  • Biomedical Academic Scientific Training for Exchange Students, 3 ECTS

  • Applied Electrophysiology for Exchange students, 2 ECTS

*, the modules are obligatory for students from the Karolinska Institute that attend the curricular exchange programme