The Harmless Nature of Most Micro-organisms

The Harmless Nature of Most Micro-organisms

  • Most micro-organisms are harmless. They are essential for life and are constantly present in our environment and body, such as in our gut system where they aid in digestion.

  • Many micro-organisms work together with other species in symbiotic relationships, in which both organisms benefit. An example of this is the nitrogen-fixing bacteria in plant roots, which aids in nutrient absorption.

  • Micro-organisms are crucial for cycling of nutrients in ecosystems. They facilitate processes such as decomposition, which returns nutrients to the soil for re-use by plants.

  • In the field of biotechnology, harmless micro-organisms are employed for various purposes. Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast, is used in baking and brewing, while other types are employed in the production of cheese and yoghurt.

  • However, a minority of micro-organisms can be pathogenic, meaning they cause diseases. It is this group that our body’s immune system defends against.

  • Diseases caused by pathogenic bacteria include Tuberculosis and Salmonella food poisoning. Viruses can cause diseases like the common cold or more serious illnesses like HIV/AIDS.

  • Fungi can also be pathogens, causing diseases like Athlete’s foot, while Protoctists cause diseases like Malaria.

  • Importantly, the majority of micro-organisms are not pathogenic and actually provide numerous benefits to us and to our ecosystem. By understanding the role and nature of micro-organisms, we can both harness their positive traits and better fight against the diseases caused by the minority that are harmful.

  • There are also instances where normally harmless micro-organisms can cause disease if they enter a part of the body where they don’t normally live. This includes E.Coli, which are normally harmless in our gut system but can cause infections if they enter the urinary tract.