A Scientific Breakdown on Bacteria
Written by: Greg Wiszniewski
While you can’t see, touch, or smell it, bacteria play a major role in our world. These microscopic living organisms were among the first life forms to appear on Earth, and can be found on everything, from the bread you eat to the water you swim in. Bacteria can even live inside you, sometimes causing illnesses like strep throat and food poisoning. While bacteria are very simple single-celled microorganisms, they are essential to life as we know it. Some bacteria are “bad,” while other types of bacteria can have health benefits when consumed. Good bacteria, or probiotics, help keep the intestinal track in good working order and can offer numerous health benefits. Bacteria are a critical component to our lives and to the earth.
Bacteria are prokaryotic cells, meaning that they come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The three main shapes include rod like, spherical, and spiral. Most bacteria have the same basic structuring consisting of a cell wall which provides protection for the bacteria cell and a cell membrane which provides a tissue-like cushioning around the cell. Some bacteria cells have a nucleus (genetic material that floats in cytoplasm), while others have flagella, which allow the bacteria to move in its environment. Bacteria can form in the same way most living creatures are formed, through reproduction. Under the right conditions, bacteria can reproduce at great speeds, as much as once every 20 minutes. Bacteria reproduce using one of two methods: asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction. In asexual reproduction, only one parent is needed and the offspring are exact duplicates of the parent. If two parent cells exchange genetic material, this is sexual reproduction and the offspring will have a combination of the parent cells’ traits. Some types of bacteria are able to transfer pieces of their genes to other bacteria they come in contact with. This process, known as conjugation, allows one bacterium to connect to another through a protein tube called a pilus. The pilus is where the genes are transferred. Other bacteria can take DNA from their surroundings, mostly from dead bacterial cells. During a process called transformation, the bacterium binds with DNA and transports it across the cell membrane. New DNA is then combined with the bacterium’s existing DNA. Transduction involves exchanging bacterial DNA through bacteriophages, or viruses that infect bacteria. If a bacteriophage attaches itself to a bacterium, its genome is inserted into the bacterium and its components are replicated in its host. The new bacteriophages then split open the bacterium, resulting in replicated viruses.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was a Dutch merchant and the very first to discover bacteria which he called “animalcules.” After building his own microscope, Leeuwenhoek scraped some plaque from his teeth and put it under the lens. Under the microscope, he could see the microscopic organisms that were living in his mouth. He sent a letter to the Royal Society of London detailing his findings. Leeuwenhoek’s letter remains the first record of bacteria living inside the human body. Bacteria have the same basic needs as many other organisms. They require food, which they break down in a process called respiration to make energy. Most bacteria require oxygen for this process. Since bacteria can thrive nearly everywhere, it is involved in many aspects of our daily world. Bacteria are used in environmental clean-up and recycling, and the production of food, fuel, and medications. The bacteria that grow in milk are essential for the creation of dairy products we eat every day, including yogurt, sour cream, and cheese. The human body has many helpful bacteria, and without them, you would become ill. These “good” bacteria help prevent harmful bacteria from growing and help digest food.
While less than 1 percent of bacteria cause disease, it’s important to protect yourself against “bad” germs to avoid getting sick. Various techniques can be used to stay disease-free, such as regular hand-washing, appropriate medications, and regular vaccinations. While hand-washing is often overlooked, it can be one of the most effective ways to protect yourself against bacteria and infections. Always wash your hands before preparing or eating food, after sneezing or coughing, and after using the toilet. Some medications will offer short-term protection from specific germs, such as an anti-parasitic medication if you are traveling to a foreign country. Being aware that not all bacteria are harmful, and understanding how to keep yourself protected from those that are, can help you stay healthy and strong. – See more at: http://www.bbcleaningservice.com/scientific-breakdown-on-bacteria.html#sthash.IDLUnlMq.dpuf
WHAT ARE BACTERIA?
Bacteria are tiny little organisms that are everywhere around us. We can’t see them without a microscope because they are so small, but they are in the air, on our skin, in our bodies, in the ground, and all throughout nature.
Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms. Their cell structure is unique in that they don’t have a nucleus and most bacteria have cell walls similar to plant cells. They come in all sorts of shapes including rods, spirals, and spheres. Some bacteria can “swim” around using long tails called flagella. Others just hang out or glide along.
Are bacteria dangerous?
Most bacteria aren’t dangerous, but some are and can make us sick. These bacteria are called pathogens. Pathogens can cause diseases in animals and plants. Some examples of pathogens are leprosy, food poisoning, pneumonia, tetanus, and typhoid fever.
Fortunately, we have antibiotics we can take which help to fight off the bad pathogens. We also have antiseptics to help us keep wounds clean of bacteria and antibiotic soap we use to wash to help keep off bad pathogens. Remember to wash your hands!
Are bacteria all bad?
Not at all. Actually most bacteria are very helpful to us. They play an important role in the planet’s ecosystem as well as in human survival.
Bacteria in the soil
Bacteria work hard in the soil for us. One type of bacteria, called decomposers, break down material from dead plants and animals. This might sound kind of gross, but it’s an important function that helps to create soil and get rid of dead tissue. Another type of bacteria in the soil is Rhizobium bacteria. Rhizobium bacteria helps to fertilize the soil with nitrogen for plants to use when growing.
Bacteria in food
Yep, there’s bacteria in our food. Yuck! Well, they aren’t really that bad and bacteria is used when making foods like yogurt, cheese, pickles, and soy sauce.
Bacteria in our bodies
There are many good bacteria in our bodies. A primary use of bacteria is to help us digest and breakdown our food. Some bacteria can also help assist our immune system in protecting us from certain organisms that can make us sick.
Parts of the Bacteria Cell (see picture)
3.Periplasm and Cell wall
4.Cytoplasmic (inner) membrane
7.Reserve food supplies
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT GERMS?
Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease — and they’re so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. To stay healthy, it helps to give some thought to germs.
The term germs is really just a generic word for four different types of organisms: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa.
Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that are found throughout nature, including in the bodies of human beings. A certain number of bacteria are good for our bodies — they help keep the digestive system in working order and keep harmful bacteria from moving in. Some bacteria are even used to produce medicines and vaccines.
But bacteria can cause trouble, too — ever had a urinary tract infection or strep throat? These infections are caused by bacteria.
Viruses are even smaller than bacteria and can’t live on their own. In order to survive, grow, and reproduce, they need to be inside other living organisms. Most viruses can only live for a very short time outside other living cells. For example, they can stay on surfaces like a countertop or toilet seat in infected bodily fluids for a short period of time, but they quickly die there unless a live host comes along. But some viruses, such as the kind that cause hepatitis (an infection of the liver), can survive on surfaces for a week or longer and still be able to cause infections.
Once they’ve moved into your body, viruses spread easily and can make you quite sick. Viruses are responsible for not-so-serious diseases like colds as well as extremely serious diseases like smallpox.
Fungi (pronounced: FUN-jye) are multi-celled, plant-like organisms that usually aren’t dangerous in a healthy person. Fungi can’t produce their own food from soil, water, and air, so instead, they get nutrition from plants, food, and animals in damp, warm environments.
Two common fungal infections are athlete’s foot and ringworm. People who have weakened immune systems (from diseases like AIDS or cancer) may develop more serious fungal infections.
Protozoa (pronounced: pro-toe-ZO-uh) are one-celled organisms like bacteria. Protozoa love moisture, so intestinal infections and other diseases they cause are often spread through contaminated water.
Once organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa invade your body, they get ready to stay for a while. These germs draw all their energy from you! They may damage or destroy some of your own healthy cells. As they use up your nutrients and energy, most will produce waste products, known as toxins.
Some toxins cause the annoying symptoms of common colds or flu-like infections, such as sniffles, sneezing, coughing, and diarrhea. But other toxins can cause high fever, increased heart rate, and even life-threatening illness.
If you’re not feeling well and visit your doctor, he or she may order testing to examine your blood and other fluids under a microscope or do cultures to figure out which germs (if any) are making you sick.
How Can I Protect Myself From Germs?
The best way to prevent the infections that germs cause is by protecting yourself. Because most germs are spread through the air in sneezes or coughs or through bodily fluids like saliva, semen, vaginal fluid, or blood. If you or someone else is sick, your best bet is to limit contact with those substances.
Washing your hands often is absolutely the best way to stop germs from getting into your body. When should you wash? After using the bathroom, after blowing your nose or coughing, after touching any pets or animals, after gardening, or before and after visiting a sick relative or friend. And of course you should wash your hands before eating or cooking.
There’s a right way to wash hands, too — you need to soap up well using warm water and plenty of soap, then rub your hands vigorously together for 20 seconds (away from the water). Rinse your hands and finish by drying them thoroughly on a clean towel. It’s a good idea to carry hand sanitizer with you for times when you are eating out or not near a sink.
If you spend any time in the kitchen, you’ll have many opportunities to get rid of germs. Be sure to use proper food-handling techniques, like using separate cutting boards, utensils, and towels for preparing uncooked meat and poultry.
Another way to fight infections from germs is to make sure you have the right immunizations, especially if you’ll be traveling to other countries. Getting a flu vaccination yearly is strongly recommended, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
With a little prevention, you can keep harmful germs out of your way!