Although I had taken a very rigorous undergraduate microbiology course, I was still overwhelmed by the depth of information our veterinary professor expected us to retain about each microbe. For example, we second-year students were responsible for knowing the following about each of ~125 different bacteria, fungi, and viruses:
– The Latin name, disease name, and common name. (Staphylococcus hyicus causes exudative epidermitis, a disease commonly referred to as greasy pig disease.)
– The morphology, virulence factors, and staining coloration. (S hyicus is a gram-positive purple cocci, which has a protective capsule and which produces toxins and enzymes that degrade the skin.)
– The host, reservoir, and common presentations of the disease. (Pigs under 2 months old serve as hosts for S hyicus, while the skin and vaginal mucosa of pigs serve as the reservoir. Pigs afflicted with S hyicus stop eating, develop fevers, and have crusty thickened brown lesions on their faces that spread to their bodies. Eventually, they are covered with a moist greasy exudate consisting of serum and sebum from the damaged skin.)
– The transmission routes, prevention, and sanitation methods specific to each microbe. (S hyicus is spread via direct contact with a reservoir host, and preventing the disease is done by preventing skin abrasions, since this bacteria can’t penetrate intact skin.)
Then some specific extraneous—though important—information must also be memorized: a specific diagnostic test, which diseases are reportable to state health authorities, and which diseases are transmissible to people for example. Some diseases are more memorable than others, either because they have a funny name (like greasy pig disease) or because they’re particularly gruesome (like greasy pig disease). I almost wish I could take this class again, because even though I studied hard and did well, there’s so much to remember that a good chunk was promptly forgotten. I’m hoping that it’s easier to learn the second time around!