Curriculum in MS-Infectious Disease and Global Health

Curriculum in the MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health Program

The rigorous one-year master’s curriculum provides in-depth understanding of the fundamental aspects of major domestic and global infectious diseases. Coursework and training explore pathogenesis, transmission, prevention, control, treatment, ecology, immunology, vaccinology, and animal models, and provide a comprehensive understanding of related fields.

This comprehensive program provides both theoretical and practical training with laboratory and field techniques used in immunology, molecular biology, and microbiology. Additionally, extensive training is provided in the many techniques used in research and in the development of diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines for infectious diseases, including an animal model course, which provides unique hands-on experience in studying infections in vivo.

Courses are designed to hone students’ skills in leadership, critical analysis of literature, writing proposals and manuscripts, biosafety, research ethics, Good Laboratory Practice, and laboratory management.

In addition to completing three semesters of core coursework in residence, students work under renown faculty mentors to develop, write, and present a research proposal related to infectious diseases. Students also participate in a biweekly journal club and are able to cross-register for two elective courses from elsewhere in the university.

Fall Semester (15 weeks)

  • IDGH 540 – Infectious Diseases of Humans and Animals I
  • IDGH 541 – Applied Immunology and Vaccinology
  • IDGH 542 – Research Training with Lab Rotation
  • IDGH 543 – Microbiology and Immunology Techniques
  • IDGH 544 – Fundamentals of Biostatistics
  • IDGH 545 – Research Ethics
  • IDGH 546 – Journal Club

Spring Semester (17 weeks)

  • IDGH 547 – Infectious Diseases of Humans and Animals II
  • IDGH 548 – Microbial Molecular Biology
  • IDGH 549 – Animal Models of Infectious Diseases
  • IDGH 560 – Principles of Biodefense
  • IDGH 561 – Food Safety
  • IDGH 562 – Applications of Biotechnology
  • IDGH 563 – Molecular Biology Techniques
  • IDGH 564 – Ecology of Disease Transmission
  • IDGH 565 – Global Health and Threat of Emerging Pandemics
  • IDGH 546 – Journal Club

Summer Semester (13 weeks)

  • IDGH 566 – Training in Leadership
  • IDGH 567 – Basics in Good Laboratory Practice
  • IDGH 568 – Principles of Laboratory Management and Biosafety
  • IDGH 569 – Develop and Write a Research Proposal

Course Descriptions:

IDGH 540 – Infectious Diseases of Humans and Animals I – 4.5 credits

This course will cover the fundamental aspects of bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections that are important to humans and animals. In Course I, a systems approach will be used to demonstrate infectious agents that primarily infect respiratory, gastrointestinal or urogenital tracts. The introductory lecture of each unit will review normal anatomy and physiology of each system. Additional lectures show the changes that occur with infection and disease. Pathogens of particular importance domestically and/or globally will be selected for in depth discussion with the students. Outside reading of published research papers will be used for discussion points and to establish a deeper understanding of important infectious diseases.

IDGH 541 – Applied Immunology and Vaccinology – 2 credits

This course will teach the principles of immunology and comparative immunology and then apply them to understand immune responses against selected infectious agents, immunotherapies and immunodiagnostics. The course will also teach how knowledge of the immune response against an infectious disease is applied to designing and developing effective vaccines, and other aspects of vaccine development. The published research papers will be discussed to provide a deeper understanding of basic and applied aspects of immunology.

IDGH 542 – Research Training with Lab Rotation – 1 credit

Students will spend time in each laboratory in the DIDGH to have a deeper understanding of various infectious disease research projects and approaches used to answer research problems specific to each project. Interaction with faculty and scientist, and type of pathogen and problems studied and techniques used in each laboratory will help students identify faculty mentors for their summer research proposal development and writing..

IDGH 543 – Microbiology and Immunology Techniques – 2.5 credits

This course will provide students with a hands-on opportunity to learn both the theoretical basis and practical application of a variety of immunological and microbiological techniques commonly used in infectious disease research. Specifically, students will learn how to utilize antibodies to determine concentration of a target molecule in a biological sample, identify pathogens and their antigens, characterize lymphocyte subset responses, neutralize pathogens/toxins and purify pathogens and their virulence factors. Students will also learn to isolate, cultivate and identify bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. In addition, students will learn sterile technique, including preparation of glassware and reagents, how to handle biomedical waste both within the laboratory and under field conditions and how to address a biological spill.

IDGH 544 – Fundamentals of Biostatics – 1.5 credits

Introductory statistics will be learned using an active approach, emphasizing practical applications of statistical concepts. Students will gain experience in analyzing data sets and presenting data. In addition, students will become familiar with using Excel for basic statistical analyses and more specialized programs for more advanced statistics, such as SPSS. Laptop computers are required.

IDGH 545 – Research Ethics – 1 credit

This course will introduce ethics, science and society and address key issues affecting the responsible conduct of scientific research, including (1) animal use (ethical treatment of laboratory animals, laboratory animal care training, and IACUC); (2) human subjects (informed consent, IRB, training requirements and resources, clinical research and trials, regulations governing clinical investigation, cultural issues, and research/trials in developing countries); (3) laboratory safety and compliance (basic safety, biohazards, recombinant DNA, hazardous chemicals, transfer of etiologic agents, radioactivity); (4) dealing with scientific misconduct (where to report, whom to turn to for support and advice); (5) scientific communication i.e. presentations and publications (seminars and publications, citing the work of others, plagiarism, authorship, order of authors); (6) results of research and note keeping (verification, repetition, data ownership and legal ramifications); (7) conflict of interest and conflict of commitment; intellectual property (protection and rights). This course will also utilize case studies and ethics training through various online web portals to enforce deeper understanding of ethical issues in scientific research.

IDGH 546 – Journal Club – .5 credit

Students will present scientific papers relevant to infectious disease. All students will be required to thoroughly study the article before the Journal Club. Papers will cover diverse aspects of infectious diseases and be chosen via consultation with students’ individual faculty mentors and the Course Director. The presentations will be powerpoint-based (40-50 min), which will be followed by extensive group discussion (20-30 min). The sessions will help students to enhance the skills of analytical reading and critique. The presentations will focus on critical analysis of the results/data, evaluation of the scientific merit of the paper, stimulating class-discussion of the paper and related literature, and developing presentation skills. Students will take Journal Club in both the Fall and Spring semesters. The journal club will be open to everyone and advertised campus-wide. Visiting and resident faculty will be strongly encouraged to attend as well as veterinary students, other graduate students and members of the Tufts community.

IDGH 547 – Infectious Diseases of Humans and Animals II – 3 credits

A systems-based approach will be utilized to present infectious agents that primarily infect the nervous system, skin, and blood (including the reticuloendothelial system). The introductory lecture of each unit will briefly describe the anatomical (including histological) and physiological features of the organs of that system, and list infectious agents that primarily infect that system and cause pathology and disease. Model bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic pathogens that cause disease domestically and/or globally will be selected for in-depth discussion. The etiology, pathogenesis, immunology, epidemiology, diagnosis, prevention and control of these selected pathogens will be discussed in detail. Reading of pertinent primary scientific literature will be assigned to facilitate discussion and deeper understanding.

IDGH 548 – Microbial Molecular Biology – 1.5 credits

The first part of the course will cover basic topics of molecular biology relevant to the understanding of viral, bacterial and protozoal microorganisms. Following an overview of the structure and function of nucleic acids, prokaryotic and eukaryotic gene expression and regulation will be discussed. The second part of the course will be devoted to applied topics in molecular biology, including genetically modified organisms, genotyping methods, medical molecular biology, high-throughput sequencing and its application to genomics and the analysis of complex bacterial populations. An introduction into computational methods for analyzing complex sequence data and their application to studying host associated microbial populations and their impact on health and disease will complete the course.

IDGH 549 – Animal models of Infectious Diseases – 4.5 credits

Theoretical aspects of the course will cover various models of infectious disease research, such as gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, non-human primates, rabbits, rats, and swine. The course will get practical training with mostly conventional animal models, such as mice, hamsters and rats. However, limited experience will be provided with gnotobiotic piglet model of enteric infections. Students will learn methods of handling, feeding and care of animals, oral inoculations and systemic injections, observing and recording clinical signs of the disease, humanely euthanizing the animals, collection of blood and organs for immunological, microbiological and histological analysis, and disposal of carcass. The students will process serum and other samples in-vitro, analyze, write report and present data to the class.

IDGH 560 – Principles of Biodefense – 1.5 credits

The recent increase in terrorist attacks in many parts of the world has focused attention on the possibility that pathogens and toxins may be used as weapons targeting humans or economically important animals and plants. The issues surrounding bioterrorism and its critical complement, biodefense, are complex and require an understanding of sociopolitical factors as well as those of biology. This course seeks to provide the basis for (1) critically evaluating the risks associated with bioterrorism and (2) developing strategies for defending against as well as responding to the illegitimate use of biological agents.

Each of the sessions will be structured around a key reading or two designed to illustrate general concepts. Original, peer reviewed publications or policy papers will mainly serve as key readings. Groups of 2-3 students, depending on class size, will be assigned the task of presenting such a reading each week for a structured class discussion.

IDGH 561 – Food Safety – .5 credits

Students will become familiar with the more common food-borne illnesses and the risks of transmission from meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, and other foods. They will learn the principles of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system (HACCP) and the common diagnostic techniques used to monitor food safety, including detecting microorganisms and chemicals. Students will also learn the use of antimicrobial in food producing animals and development of antibiotic resistance, and understand the roles of a variety of state, federal, and global regulatory agencies which recommend and implement food protection practices.

IDGH 562 – Applications of Biotechnology – .5 credits

Biotechnology is “the application of biological organisms, systems, or processes by various industries to learning about the science of life and the improvement of the value of materials and organisms such as pharmaceuticals, crops, and livestock” (ACS). Classes will explore different biotechnology applications, particularly those technologies of relevance to infectious disease. Students will learn how the technologies were developed, how they are being applied to global health issues, and how they are likely to evolve in the future. As part of the course, students will be asked to select biotechnologies they feel will be important to their personal career objectives, investigate these in depth and present their findings and views to the class followed by general discussion.

IDGH 563 – Molecular Biology Techniques – 2 credits

The goal of this course is to provide students with hands-on experience in molecular biology procedures. Having first established good laboratory technique (to encompass safety and regulatory issues), students will have the opportunity to learn a variety of molecular methods including DNA isolation, digestion and cloning, bacterial transformation, evaluation of recombinant clones and plasmid isolation. Students will engage in primer design, gel electrophoresis, PCR (including quantitative real time PCR), DNA barcoding and sequence annotation. Basic bioinformatic skills will be explored. Recombinant protein expression systems will be compared (eukaryotic versus prokaryotic) and various recombinant protein expression and purification techniques (e.g. column chromatography and affinity methods) will be tested. Science writing skills that focus upon clarity, precision and comprehension of experimental results and conclusions will be emphasized. Students will gain a firm understanding of how the molecular biology techniques employed in this class are used to diagnose, identify and study infectious diseases.

IDGH 564 – Ecology of Disease Transmission – 1 credit

This course will teach how host behavior, ecology and habitat patterns impact pathogen invasion dynamics or the spatio-temporal patterns of infectious diseases. Students will acquire a basic understanding of the principles of disease ecology and disease emergence including the major drivers of emergence, the relationships with biodiversity, and the effects of climate change. Key diseases of concern for conservation medicine and ecosystem health will be reviewed as examples. Emphasis will be placed on the integration of animal, human, and environmental health, and the environmental, economic, and anthropogenic factors promoting the emergence or persistence of infectious diseases and other major health threats.

IDGH 565 – Global Health and Threat of Emerging Pandemics – .5 credit

This course will draw on lectures given earlier on the specific diseases that have been associated with pandemics. Key historic events will be discussed and the lessons learned from them. This set of lectures will highlight the factors that contribute to emergence, transmission, geographic locations, species of animals and pathogens most frequently associated with the emergence of pandemics. In addition, the evolutionary attributes of certain microbes that are most likely to continue to lead to the rise of new pandemic microbial strains through genetic drift, shift, and genetic reassortants. The ability of scientists to generate new reassortants in their laboratories will help predict likely future pandemics and help prepare for them. But such activities also carry serious risks of accidental or deliberate release of such lab strains into the environment and into the animal and human populations.

IDGH 566 – Training in Leadership, Communication Skills, Reporting and Conduct – .5 credits

This course will teach how to develop mastery in teamwork and team building, and understanding the audience and media, building networks and managing the flow of information. This course will also teach writing of proposals, contracts and subcontracts to federal agencies and private foundations, pre- and post-award management, media and policy, the structure/role and responsibilities of IACUC, IRB and IBC institutional committees, protocol writing, and protocol amendments and submission.

IDGH 567 – Basics of Good Laboratory Practice – .5 credits

This course will cover the history and practical basics of a Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) study. The intent is to introduce the student to what a GLP Study is, the basic steps, intentions, and goals of the FDA Regulations and world standards. For each lecture topic listed below, industry examples and sample FDA warning letters will be used.

IDGH 568 – Principles of Laboratory Management and Biosafety – .5 credits

The course will provide in-depth understanding of biosafety and regulatory compliance, and laboratory management. The course will cover biosafety considerations of the BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratories, risk assessment and hazard identification of infectious agents, biosafety design criteria for facility design, regulations/guidelines and regulatory compliance with federal/state and local laws, biosafety audit of work practices and procedures, management principles and managing a laboratory, and many other aspects of biosafety and laboratory management.

IDGH 569 – Develop and Write a Research Proposal – 4 credit

Students will develop and write research proposals, with a focus on addressing specific, human and/or animal, local or global, serious infectious diseases, including emerging infections. Each student will investigate and understand in depth a particular research problem. The proposal will include long and short term goals, hypothesis, specific aims, comprehensive literature survey on the subject, approach to solutions, methodology, biostatistics, expected outcome. Students will get opportunity to work and think independently, read scientific literature, develop oral/written communication, identify techniques to answer a research problem, and appreciate research process. The project will be presented orally to the class and written up and submitted as a significant part of the final course evaluation. Mentors will be assigned to each student to provide guidance as needed.