College of Veterinary Medicine


VCM 509 - Biology of Veterinary Pathogens

Contact Information

Instructor: Dr. Suzanna Storms
Phone: 217-333-0418
Office Hours: Fridays 12pm-1pm CST

Course Description

The course includes an overview of relevant veterinary microbiology and the interaction between microbes and their hosts. The course will build upon knowledge acquired in VCM 506, and relevant physiology pertaining to disease prevalence, prevention, and pathology will be discussed. The host immune system will be highlighted, and important bacteria, viruses and fungi will be studied. Current and emerging pathogens, and the relevance of potential zoonotic spillovers into human populations will be discussion points. Discussion boards will be posted each week to integrate concepts and drive discussion based on the weekly topic.

Weekly quizzes, discussion boards, exams, and one final exam will be assessed for a final grade in the class.

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify host defenses and summarize similarities and differences between body systems.
  • Identify and explain tissue tropism and disease patterns of different veterinary pathogens.
  • Predict which body systems will be targeted by pathogens, comparing primary and secondary pathological insults.

Course Topics

  • Module 1: Essentials of Microbiology
    • Host defenses: physical, chemical, immunological
      • The behavior patterns of pathogens in populations
      • SIR triangle
        • Immunology overview
        • Biosecurity overview
    • Pathogen defenses: toxins, adherence, evasion, evolution
      • Virus Basics
        • Structure, classification
        • Replication, transmission
      • Bacteria basics
        • Structure, classification
        • Replication, transmission
      • Protozoa and fungi
        • Structure, classification
        • Replication, transmission
  • Module 2: Host Defenses and Pathogens
    • Respiratory pathogens
      • Tissues of the respiratory tract
        • Overview of anatomic barriers and physiology
        • Barrier protection
      • Respiratory pathology/transmission
        • Viral
        • Bacterial Other
    • Enteric pathogens
      • Tissues of the respiratory tract
        • Overview of the anatomic barriers and physiology
        • Barrier protection
      • Enteric pathology/transmission
        • Viral
        • Bacterial
        • Other
    • Other pathogens
      • Reproductive system
      • Neurological system
      • Misc.
    • Emerging pathogens and recent outbreaks
      • COVID
      • Hi path flu
      • Emerging veterinary disease
      • Zoonotic diseases

Mode of Teaching

This course is fully online using Canvas ( The content will be presented as text, videos, and other media. The course covers the same amount of material that would be expected if the class were a traditional campus-based course. Due to the nature of online learning, students must be diligent about their learning, engaging often and actively.

We use a software solution called ZOOM for online meetings. Students may join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android or call by telephone. The meeting link or telephone number will be provided after the meeting is scheduled (International numbers available at this link to join a meeting. A webcam is preferred for easier communication.

Course Requirements

Required Textbooks

  • There is no required textbook. Reading assignments will come from journal articles, international organization standards and guidelines (e.g., World Organization for Animal Health, World Health Organization), University of Illinois Library access e-books, and technical documents.

Technical Requirements

  • Knowledge of and operation of a computer is the students’ personal responsibility. Make sure to do a system check at Compass 2g Browser Check (login required). You will need: 
    • A Reliable Device. 
    • High-Speed Internet Connection: e.g. DSL or Cable.
    • Supported Web Browser: e.g. a recent version of Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. 
    • Access Microsoft Office 365 (Net ID and password needed) & have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed.
    • Minimum Technical Skills: At a minimum, students must possess the ability to navigate Canvas. This includes accessing course content, posting to a discussion board, and completing online assignments, quizzes, self-assessments, and exams.
    • More information on the hardware and software requirements can be found at