Introduction to Microorganisms
Microorganisms are organisms (forms of life) requiring magnification to see and resolve their structures. "Microorganism" is a general term that becomes more understandable if it is divided into its principal types— bacteria, yeasts, molds, protozoa, algae, and rickettsia—predominantly unicellular microbes. Viruses are also included, although they cannot live or reproduce on their own. They are particles, not cells; they consist of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or ribonucleic acid (RNA), but not both. Viruses invade living cells—bacteria, algae, fungi, protozoa, plants, and animals (including humans)—and use their hosts' metabolic and genetic machinery to produce thousands of new virus particles. Some viruses can transform normal cells to cancer cells. Rickettsias and chlamydiae are very small cells that can grow and multiply only inside other living cells. Although bacteria, actinomycetes, yeasts, and molds are cells that must be magnified in order to see them, when cultured on solid media that allow their growth and multiplication, they form visible colonies consisting of millions of cells. Life began on a small scale. The first organisms were single cells. Sometimes small groups of cells formed. Eventually, these microorganisms evolved into complex multicellular organisms. The fact that microorganisms still exist today in many forms is a testament to the quality of this original life form. Microorganisms have adapted to inhabit almost every corner of the world. They live in the oceans and lakes, where they provide a valuable food source for larger organisms. They live on land where they may the decay of dead organic material, recycling valuable nutrients. Many even live within other, larger organisms that they may help or hinder. Overall, microorganisms are some of the most important living creatures. Their roles as producers and recyclers makes them vital in most ecosystems. A greater understanding of these tiny creatures is vital for the study and preservation of our natural environment.
Beneficial Effects of Microorganisms
Microbes are everywhere in the biosphere, and their presence invariably affects the environment that they are growing in. The effects of microorganisms on their environment can be beneficial or harmful or inapparent with regard to human measure or observation. Since a good part of this text concerns harmful activities of microbes (i.e., agents of disease) this chapter counters with a discussion of the beneficial activities and exploitations of microorganisms as they relate to human culture. The beneficial effects of microbes derive from their metabolic activities in the environment, their associations with plants and animals, and from their use in food production and biotechnological processes.
Fighting Against Microbes
In the same manner that we harness the benefits of microbes, where appropriate, we fight micro-organisms where they can do harm. There are many ways to combat microbial growth, and most involve simple measures that we can employ at home or in the workplace. For example: - High temperatures can kill microbes, and low temperatures can slow down their growth. This is why it is so important to properly cook and to refrigerate food properly. - Through thorough cleaning - of both hands and various environmental surfaces – we remove microbes and the debris that they feed on, which can help reduce cross-contamination from the environment to food and other exposed areas. - Micro-organisms need humidity to grow. By keeping moisture at bay through ventilation and heating, it is possible to prevent the growth of mold and other microbes. However, such measures are not always sufficient to keep microbes away. You can adhere to good hygiene practices and still experience mold growth on the ceiling, spoiled food, or foul-smelling carpets. Life Material Technologies Limited (LIFE) has developed proprietary technology to serve as a second line of defense against micro- organisms, in combination with good hygiene practices. LIFE’s technology is built around incorporating antibacterial, antifungal and antialgal ingredient into materials such as plastics, coatings, ceramics, paper and textiles, to make products made from such materials antimicrobial for the lifetime of the products.