The Microbe World

What are Microbes?             |              Where Do They Live?

Microbes are everywhere - a largely unseen world of living things that support life processes. "The Microbe World" provides a comprehensive directory of micro-organisms and their activities.
Helpful or Not?
Top Honors
Safety Quiz
Microbe Quiz

Helpful or Not?

Microbes are much more our friends than our enemies. Although some microbes cause health problems such as strep throat, chickenpox and the common cold, most microbes make our lives better such as:

Bacillus thuringiensis - a common soil bacterium that is a natural pest-killer in gardens and on crops.
Arbuscular mycorrhizas - fungus living in the soil that helps crops take up nutrients from the soil.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae - baker's yeast that makes bread rise.
Escherichia coli - one of many kinds of microbes that live in your digestive system to help you digest your food every day.
Streptomyces - bacteria in soil that makes an antibiotic used to treat infections.
Pseudomonas putida - one of many microbes that clean wastes from sewage water at water treatment plants.
Lactobacillus acidophilus - one of the bacteria that turn milk into yogurt.

There are many other important jobs microbes do. They are used to make medicine. They break down the oil from oil spills. They make about half of the oxygen we breathe. They are the foundation of the food chain that feeds all living things on earth.

We've been using microbes for thousands of years to make products we need and enjoy. For example, you can thank fungi for the cheese on your cheeseburger and yeast for your bun. Cheese and bread are two microbe-made foods people have been enjoying since time began.

Over the past 50 years, we've begun using microbes to do all kinds of new work for us. Here are some examples of microbes at work in pollution control and medicine.

In pollution control, researchers are using bacteria that eat methane gas to clean up hazardous waste dumps and landfills. These methane-eating bacteria make an enzyme that can break down more than 250 pollutants into harmless cells. By piping methane into the soil, researchers can increase growth of the bacteria that normally live in the polluted soil. More bacteria means faster pollution break up. Also, bacteria is being used as one of the tools to clean up oil spills. These bacteria eat the oil, turning it into carbon dioxide and other harmless by-products.

Fungi and bacteria produce antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline . These are medicines we use to fight off harmful bacteria that cause sore throats, ear infections, diarrhea and other discomforts. Scientists have changed the genetic material of bacteria and yeasts to turn them into medicine. They inject genes for medicines they want to make into the microbe cells, as if adding new building information to the microbe's cell DNA. The scientists then grow the microbes in huge containers called fermenters where they reproduce into billions, all making new medicines.

Quizzes | Sitemap | Home | Message Board | SKC Homepage