Microbiology is the study of microbes or the living organisms that are too small to be visible with the naked eye. These living things can be seen only with the use of a microscope. These life forms are called microorganisms or microbes. Microorganisms include bacteria, archaea, viruses, protozoa, microscopic fungi and yeasts, and microscopic algae. Microbiology research encompasses all aspects of these microorganisms such as their behaviour, evolution, ecology, biochemistry, and physiology, along with the pathology of diseases that they cause. These microbes play crucial roles in nutrient cycling, biodegradation, climate change, food spoilage, the cause and control of disease, and biotechnology. They make up more than 60 per cent of the Earth’s living matter and scientists estimate that 2 to 3 billion species share the planet with us, also some microbial cells break down organic matter and recycle nutrients, such as carbon and nitrogen, that are necessary for life on Earth. They can be used in many ways; making life-saving drugs, the manufacturing of biofuels, cleaning up of pollution and producing or processing of foods and drinks. Microbiology plays very important roles in different streams as discussed in the coming paragraphs.
Microorganisms have played a key role in the evolution of the planet earth. Microorganisms affect animals, the environment, the food supply and the healthcare industry of many. There are many different types of microbiology including environmental, veterinary, food, pharmaceutical and medical microbiology which is the most prominent.
Microorganisms are very important to the environment, to human health and to the economy. Few have immense beneficial effects without which we could not exist. Others are really harmful, and our effort to overcome their effects tests our understanding and skills. Certain microorganisms can be beneficial or harmful depending on what we require from them.
Disease and decay are not inherent properties of organic objects, nor are they caused by physical damage, it is microorganisms that bring about these changes. We are surrounded by bacteria, virus, and fungi. Many cause diseases in cattle and crops and others are known for entering human bodies and causing various diseases.
Examples of familiar human diseases are:
Bacteria: pneumonia, bacterial dysentery, diphtheria, bubonic plague, meningitis, typhoid, cholera, salmonella, meningococcal
Virus: Chickenpox, measles, mumps, German measles, colds, warts, cold sores, influenza
Protoctista: amoebic dysentery, malaria,
Fungi: ringworm, athlete’s foot
Decomposers Bacteria and most Fungi are saprotrophic and have an important role in an ecosystem as decomposers, they break down dead or waste organic matter and release inorganic molecules Green plants take these nutrients which are in turn consumed by animals, and the products of these plants and animals are again broken down by decomposers.
Yeast is a single-celled fungus that lives naturally on the surface of the fruit. It is economically important in bread-making and brewing beer and also in the making of yogurt.
Most microorganisms are unicellular; if they are multicellular, they lack highly differentiated tissues.
There fundamentally two different types of cells, One being Prokaryotic and the other Eukaryotic
Microbes especially prokaryotes are numerous in number in comparison to eukaryotes.
The lineage of life on Earth originated from these microbes:
Branches of microbiology
There are various different branches in microbiology and these include the following:
1.Bacteriology- The study of bacteria
2.Mycology –The study of fungi
3.Phycology- The study of photosynthetic eukaryotes. (Algae- Seaweed)
4.Protozoology – The study of protozoa (Single-celled eukaryotes)
5.Virology- The study of viruses, non-cellular particles which parasitize cells.
6.Parasitology- The study of parasites which include pathogenic protozoa certain insects and helminth worms.
7.Nematology- The study of nematodes.
Importance of Medical Microbiology
Medical microbiology basically deals with the study of microorganisms that are both beneficial and harmful to both human and animal majorly. Branches of medical microbiology include Virology, Bacteriology, Parasitology and Mycology etc. Following are some of the major important features of the medical microbiology.
- The major importance of medical microbiology is that it helps in the identification, isolation, diagnosis and treatment of pathogenic microorganisms and also produces beneficial organisms such as yeasts and some antibiotics.
- Biomedical research derives from many areas of life and physical sciences, including biology. Biologists use microbiology to develop new methods for preventing illness. Microbiology gives the information which further use to create the vaccines and treatments for different diseases.
- Companies often employ microbiologists to develop new products that kill viruses and bacteria. These scientists help to diagnose diseases such as meningitis and tuberculosis and help to prevent the spread of diseases by identifying, containing and treating disease in the human body.
- The work of medical microbiologists is constantly evolving as new bacteria and infections are identified and categorized. Biologists use knowledge obtained from microbiology when studying the immune system.
- Scientists study vitamin efficiency when determining the effect that vitamin supplements have on humans. Without microbiology, scientists would not have the ability to see the inner structure of a cell and learn how bacteria, viruses and protists develop, grow and infect other cells.
- Microbiology plays a significant role in medical devices, such as fluorescent fusion, which is used for fast and precise detection of pathogens in tissue samples. It is a technology for carrying out immunofluorescence studies that may be applied to find specific cells in complex biological systems.
- The biggest example of medical microbiology is that diabetics were given the injection of insulin obtained from animals. But due to massive demand and also compatibility problems as it was not human-derived, there was a need for some other source of human insulin. Then rDNA(Recombinant DNA) technique involving E.coli bacteria was adopted to produce large amounts of human insulin which are even safe.
Importance of Environmental Microbiology
Environmental microbiology is the study of the composition and physiology of microbial communities in the environment. The environment, in this case, means the soil, water, air and sediments covering the planet and can also include the animals and plants that inhabit these areas. Environmental microbiology also includes the study of microorganisms that exist in artificial environments such as bioreactors. Scientists working in this field usually place an emphasis on microorganisms’ interaction with plant life and animal life, as well as all environmental factors such as pollution and the changing of the seasons. Following are some of the environmental uses of the microbiology.
- It is used for oil degradation. As we know that petroleum oil is toxic and pollution caused by oil is a major ecological concern. Oil spills of coastal regions and the open sea are poorly containable and mitigation is difficult, however much of the oil can be eliminated by the hydrocarbon-degrading activities of microbial communities, in particular, the Hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria (HCB). These organisms can help remediate the ecological damage caused by oil pollution of marine habitats. HCB also have potential biotechnological applications in the areas of bioplastics and biocatalysis.
- Secondly, it is used for degradation of Aromatic Compounds. Acinetobacter strains isolated from the environment are capable of the degradation of a wide range of aromatic compounds.
- Also used for the analysis of waste bio-treatment. Bio-treatment is the processing of waste using living organisms; it is an environmentally friendly alternative to other options. Bioreactors have been manufactured to overcome the various limiting factors of bio-treatment processes in highly controlled systems. This ability in the design of bioreactors allows the treatment of a wide range of wastes under optimized conditions. It is important to consider that various microorganisms and a great number of analyses are often required.
- The application of molecular biology and genomics to environmental microbiology has led to the discovery of a huge complexity in natural communities of microbes. Diversity surveying, community fingerprinting, and functional interrogation of natural populations have become common, enabled by a battery of molecular and bioinformatics techniques.
Importance of Microbiology in Food Industry
Microbiology also helps to keep our food safe. Microbiology helps us to identify the microorganisms that exist in food. With a better understanding of these microorganisms, help the biologists to find out the ways for preventing the food from spoilage and make food safe. Scientists use good bacteria against pathogenic bacteria to prevent food contamination. Following are the merits of microbiology in the food and agricultural industry.
- Microbiologists specializing in food-based bacteria can work with the Food and Drug Administration to help identify food products that can pose a risk to human health. They also investigate the food poisoning outbreaks, aiming to identify their causes in order to prevent recurrence.
- Microbiology also provides us with clean water. These living bacteria help to keep water clean through sewage treatment. Bacteria break down the organic matter in sewage, helping to clean the water before this water released back into the environment.
- Microbiologists investigate the vital role of microbes in the soil. Some concentrate on plant pests and diseases, developing ways to control them or even use microbes to control insect pests and weeds. Others research the microbes that cause diseases in farm animals. Moreover, microbiology helps farmers to optimize nitrate levels and maximize the output.
- It helps to find out the natural pesticides. Few microbes like bacteria and virus are exploited against pest attacking farm crops. Hence they are called natural pesticides. They are so specific to the pests or insects and do not cause any harm to the plant or animals and humans.
- Help out in the natural manures. Few microbes like algae and bacteria are grown up to enhance soil fertility by fixing nitrogen and also water retaining the capacity of the soil. Thus they also maintain soil microbiology suitable for plant growth. Crop rotation is a technique adopted by farmers to enhance soil fertility by the use of microbes in the roots of leguminous plants.
- Agricultural microbiology helps in decompose the waste. Microbes decompose the synthetic pesticide residues and other toxic material in agriculture soil and thereby protecting farms from toxin accumulation.
- An example of microbiology’s usage in the food industry is nisin; it is an antibacterial agent used in cheese, meats and beverages to extend shelf life by suppressing the growth of harmful bacteria.
Importance of Microbiology in Everyday Life
Microbiology is used in our daily life and plays an important role in it. Some of the main features of the microbiology which are used in our daily life are discussed here. Microbiology applied in everyday life; in food production, biodegradation, commercial-product production, biotechnology and genetic engineering. There are various dishes in which microorganisms are needed. For example, for the making of curd and cheese, microorganisms are needed. A bacterium called Lactobacillus converts the lactose sugar present in milk to lactic which results in the conversion of milk into curd. Moreover, yeast can be used to make bread, bacteria is important during the process of making yoghurt. Also, vitamin K is only synthesized by the microorganism in the human body. Apart from this, bacteria are used to synthesize the commercial valuable products like hydroxybutyric acid which is used in the manufacture of disposable diapers and plastics. Also in ethanol which is a biofuel. They also synthesize amino acids which are very common dietary supplements.
Thus the science of microbiology aims to gain and expand our fundamental understanding of microorganisms by studying their morphology, metabolism, physiology, reproduction and genetics. This is all how microbiology plays a significant role in the different sectors. In the next couple of years, we will see various other uses of the microbiology which will be very beneficial for us in all aspects.