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Microorganisms: Are they really that bad?

Penicillin Mold Fungus; a beneficial microorganism. We buy antibacterial hand soaps and cleaners to get rid of microorganisms that we don't want around us or our homes, but can some of them actually be helpful? You may think that they only cause harm, but they are important in many aspects of our daily lives. In fact, there are many more microorganisms that help us than the small number that are potentially harmful.

Microorganisms are used in agriculture. They help plants obtain the nutrients they need from the soil, making them an important part of every ecosystem. Cows also need microorganisms in order to digest grass. Located in a special organ called the rumen, these microorganisms carry out the digestion process. Without these tiny helpers, cows would not be able to live on grass alone. Also, many foods are actually made with help from microorganisms. For instance, fermentation would not take place without yeast, a microorganism used to produce alcohol, cheese and yogurt. Penicillin, which is made from microorganisms, is used to treat certain infections, such as strep throat. They are also used to prevent diseases, by means of vaccinations.

So the next time you take out your cleaner, remember that there are more good microorganisms than bad ones. Without these microscopic helpers, we wouldn't have cheese, yogurt, vaccines, or healthy plants in our world. In the words of Louis Pasteur, 'The role of the infinitely small in nature is infinitely large.'


About the Author

Rebekah ShafferRebekah Shaffer
Rebekah Shaffer is currently a Junior at Slippery Rock University, PA. She is pursuing her B.S. in Biology, minor in Chemistry. She currently works as a microbiology lab assistant at Slippery Rock University and is a member of Beta Beta Beta Biology Honorary Society. She plans to obtain her Ph.D. in Molecular/Cellular Biology after completing her undergraduate degree.

Further Reading
Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth
by Cynthia Needham (Editor), Mahlon Hoagland, Kenneth McPherson, Bert Dodson (Illustrator)

Related Web Links
The Microbial World
by University of Edinburgh

by Utah Education Network

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