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Infection, immunity and public health

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This module develops your knowledge and understanding of the science underpinning the complex relationships between pathogens and hosts, and how public health approaches can control the spread of disease. A COVID-19 case study brings theory to life, where you’ll hear from a variety of health professionals. You’ll put all your learning into practice with a mystery disease scenario, where you’ll take the lead as a public health investigator.

What you will study

Topic 1: The challenges of infectious diseases
This topic introduces public health concepts and then looks at the broad range of pathogens and a history of how infectious diseases have affected our species.

Topic 2: How are we protected from infectious diseases?
Topic 2 deals with the layered defences that protect us against infectious agents, plus the immune system that combats agents that gain access to our bodies.

Topic 3: Infectious agents
In this topic, you’ll explore the wide variety of infectious agents, how we detect infections, and various treatment and control options.

Topic 4: Modern public health in the context of infectious diseases
This topic deals with modern public health – surveillance and epidemiology. It includes how mathematical models help us to understand and predict how infections sweep through populations, and the concept of R values.

Topic 5: Public health initiatives to prevent and control infectious diseases
In Topic 5, you’ll look at how public health initiatives can prevent and control infections and help manage outbreaks, examining the different levels of disease prevention. Plus, public health promotion, effective communication and how to spot and deal with public health fake news.

Topic 6: Public health challenges and professional practice
The final topic deals with public health challenges and professional practice.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this module.

At The Open University, we believe education should be open to all, so we provide high-quality university education to anyone who wishes to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Even though there are no entry requirements, you’ll need an appropriate knowledge of biology obtained through either of the following:

  • OU level 1 study.
  • Equivalent work at another higher education institution.

Preparatory work

We recommend you’ve completed:

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying SK297 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Infection, immunity and public health (SK297) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2031.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
2 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment