Microbiology essay originalx

importantpsittacosisBiotechnology

Feb 20, 2013 (4 years and 5 months ago)

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1


MODULE:
BS1009

MICROBIOLOGY

ESSAY TOPIC:

How would you convince a friend that
microorganisms are more
than
just disease causing
agents?

Student No:

084423609


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How would you convince a friend that microorganisms
are more
than
just disease causing agents?


First thought that comes to
someone’s

mind when touching a dirty ob
ject is that infectious
microorganisms

have migrated into their hands and they must run and wash their hands in order to
clean all these disease
-
causing microbes. Of course this is a corr
ect reaction but p
eople tend to think
that all organisms with

microscopic
dimension
s have a negative impact
. <<Classifying>>
in our minds
that all

microorganisms are

pathogenic and in the same category with <<non living>>

viruses that cause
lethal disease
s is
wrong,

because
most of the

billions of species of microorganisms

that live in
earth’s

biosphere are
harmless
.
Only a

tiny percent of them is harmful and thus we shouldn’t conserve in our
minds an idea of
microorganisms as

disgusting and threatening hu
man enemies that only
exist to

make
everyone suffer.

Microorganisms are a very diverse group which includes fungi, bacteria,
Achaea and P
rotists amongst
other organisms.
Microbes live in every corner of the earth,
in the poles
, in

the dessert,
in the air,
in
the
deep sea
and even inside our intestines.
Some microorganisms
have evolved adaptation mechanisms in
order to survive
and create colonies in places with
extreme

conditions, which would normally be fatal to
all other life
. Those microorganisms are call
ed extremophiles and can live

kilometers under
earth’s

surface,
in extreme temperatures,
ph,

pressure and radiation
. They are exploited in biotechnology and
it
is believed that further
studies on them can lead to the discovery of ways in order to grow
extr
aterrestrial life

(Campbell

and Reece, 2008)
.

Microorganism’s

most important role on earth is the
part they play in the recycling o
f matter through all ecosystems,
a process which after energy flow is the
most dynamic and important process in all ecosyste
ms and
,

a criterion for the co
nservation of life on
earth. One

group of microorganisms that operates i
n the recycling of nutrients is

the decomposers
,

which break down dead tissues into simpler matter. W
ithout them important elements such as nitrogen
would

stay trapped in dead organisms and never return back to the environment in inorganic form and
so new life would not be abl
e to grow because the chemical ingredients for the synthesis of new organic
matter would
eventually
be exhausted
. Also this process f
rees up the physical biome because if dead
bodies weren’t decomposed th
ey would pile up into <<mountains>>. But
microorganism’s

part in the
recycling of matter does not end here because microorganisms also fixate these inorganic elements
from the atmosphe
re and the soil, and convert them
back
into organic forms that are then useful to
other organisms
such as animals that can not fix inorganic matter and can only metabolize with the use
of organic matters from food
. So basically the cycling of matter is
exc
lusively
their job and since this
process supports life one might think that we ow
e them a lot
(Campbell

and Reece, 2008).




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Fig
ure 1.0
: Dead tree decomposing.











Exc
ept for their global importance,
as far as the whole earth is concerned
,

humans have been exploiting
microorganisms from hundreds of year
s

back in food industry. Most known process
applied

in food
industry with the help of microorganisms

is fermentation. During fermentation sugars are converted
into
an acid or an
alcohol unde
r anaerobic conditions. This process is used to produce wine from grape
juice,

beer from
grains, bread,
yogurt and other dairy products such as cheese.

Many
important

food
products which some people can not imagine their
lives

without them are somehow <<cr
eations>> of
microorganisms.

For example
in

the production of beer,
homage should be paid to Saccharomyces
cerevisiae the most common yeast used in this process. Beer is made from
barley, wheat

or rye grain
which is
somehow

processed in a way

that starch
is

converted to sugar
. The grain is dried and
crushed
before

the addition of hot water and y
east that initiate fermentation,
where sugars are converted to
alcohol and carbon dioxide.

After a small period of time the beer is separated from the yeast and fi
ltered
ready to be consumed.

Wine production follows almost the sa
me process with beer production
since
grapes are crushed and yeast is again added to initiate fermentation.

Vinegar is produced with
the use
of Azotobacter sp. which oxidizes ethanol to form

acetic acid. Yogurt is produced with the use of specific
bacteria that convert lac
tose from milk into lactic acid,
which gives the sour taste to the yogurt.


Also
d
uring fermentation the production of specific acids and the use of food
energy by

the micro
organism
s
make

conditions unsuitable and inhibits the growth of other undesirable microorganisms that could be
threatening to humans.

Of course not all types of products of fermentation are completely harmless to
people since for example alcohol is <<infa
mous>> for its <<side effects>>

when misused

(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermentation_(food)
)
.


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Figure 1.1
: Beer fermenting at a brewery
.












Water borne microorganisms

play a vital part in the process of seawage treatment in o
rder to remove

waste materials or
dissolved biological matter such as nitrogen and phosphorus
from

the water
.
Decomposition of organic matter and the
removing of contaminants from the wastewater s
uffi
ciently
cleans

the water which
is then chemically or physical
ly disinfected from all these
microorganisms and
disposed into rivers or used in agriculture.

Figure 1.2
: Wastewater treatment. As microorganisms grow and reproduce, waste materials are
remov
ed.


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Microo
rganisms have a great impact in
medicine
since most
antibiotics are extracted from
microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria with the greatest example the antibiotic penicillin which is
extracte
d from the fungus Penicillium notatum

and during the II World war
saved millions of people
from
death or amputations due to i
nfected wounds. Currently many species of microorganisms are
studied in order to discover other more useful antibiotics against various diseases. Also the fact that
pat
hogenic
microorganisms can develop antibiotic resistance is a huge problem that makes it necessary
to
always try

to discover new more effective antibiotics.

Again in medicine microorganisms are used for
the production of vacc
ines. A Vaccine is an antigen
of

a
specific disease
that when injected into a body
is

strong enough to cause the body’s immune system to produce antibodies but not sufficiently strong to
cause the disease. Most vaccines are prepared from either dead or weakened bacteria. For example th
e
vaccine for tetanus is a toxin produced from the disease causing bacteria. During

the preparation of the
vaccine,
in order to destroy any harm
f
ul effects
,

the toxins are heated o
r treated chemically
(
http://www.scribd.com/doc/7186847/Microorganisms
-
in
-
Biotech
).



Figure 1.3
: Penicillum n
otatum









Microorganisms are generally essential in the fields of biotechnology and genetics as well as molecular
biology because of
their simplicity whic
h makes them easy to manipulate,
and the fact that at least most
of them can be easily cultured and can increase rapidly in numbers.
Most research in biology

is
performed in microorganisms
, the most famous

being the E. coli bacterium.

In genetic engineering specific microorganisms are cultured and then with the help of vector plasmids
external DNA that encodes genes that translate into proteins is inserted into their genome. With the use
of polymerase chain reaction a

specific gene is f
irst multiplied into large amounts and then through the
vector plasmid inserted in many colonies of
the same
species of a
microorganism
; thus the specific
protein we are interested is produced in large num
bers in all these cultures and is

subsequently
extr
acted and sold. F
or example insulin is now

produced and sold in this way when previously insulin
was very difficult to find and it was extracted from other animals such as pigs. Sometimes it was
unsuccessfully injected in diabetic people since their immune

system didn’t recognize the foreign
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protein. But with genetic engineering the gene that encodes the protein is the same gene in humans and
so the insulin that is produced is exactly the same with the human insulin.

Plastics are pollutants that can not be

biologically degraded and takes years and years in order to
decompose. Specific bacteria which are able
to produce chemical substances
can now be
used
in order
to make bioplastics,
which is a type of plastic that can easily decompose.

Biofuels is a new de
veloping area of research and its main purpose is to limit the use of fossil fuels in
order to stop the greenhouse gas emissions thus decreasing pollution of
the earth. This field is based in

the use
of
anaerobic

microorganisms that have the amazing abilit
y to convert biomass into energy
sources. This process is a type of
fermentation in

which the final products are carbon dioxide and
methane. The methane biogas can be subsequently used as a fuel.

Bioethanol is a product of
fermentation that could be altern
atively used to replace petrol in cars since it is low in toxicity and
would cause less pollution.

S
ome scientists are researching the potential that colonies o
f photosynthetic
organisms have,
in order to use sunlight and produce biomass that can be turned

into another source of
energy.


Of course biofuels is still a field that is developing and there are concerns that the need of large
areas for the growth of crops will have other negative consequences.

Oil spills are ecological disasters that destroy ecos
ystems with subsequent consequences in other
adjacent ecosystems. Fortunately microorganisms can be applied on the oil spills and restore the
destroyed ecosystems. These specific microorganisms can convert the pollutants into less harmful
compounds in a pr
ocess called biorestoration. The development of biotechnology now allows the use of
certain bacteria that break down the oil into carbon dioxide and water. The contaminated areas are
sprayed with bacteria and fertilizers which provide essential nutrients f
or the growth of the bacteria.

Figure 1.4
:
Hopeless a
ttempts to clear up an oil spill.



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Some microorganisms have the ability to form endosymbiotic relationships with other organisms and in
this way both organisms
are
benefited. For example human

flora consists of microorganisms that always
inha
bit the hum
an digestive tract and

perform a number of useful functions
such as

fermentation o
f
unused energy substrate.
Additionally g
ut

flora
regulates the development of the gut and has a large
contributi
on to gut immunity preventing growth of other harmful microorganisms

and also synthesizes
essential vitamins and hormones. These large

numbers of microorganisms work

as hard as every other
organ of the human body and thus

the flora of the gut is
also

known

a
s the forgotten organ
(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_flora
).

Despite the exploitations in the positive things microorganisms have to offer, huma
ns have also used
microorganisms
in biological w
arfare. Fo
r example during middle ages,

decayed corpses that carried
diseases were catapulted into castles or cities
during sieges,
with the purpose of infecting all nearby
humans exposed to the deadly pathogens of the corpses.

However,
all these important

functions of microorganisms and the role they play in our everyday life will
always be overshadowed by the minority of pathogenic microbes that have been the cause of many
sufferings for human population. The most known severe diseases through history suc
h as malaria and
tuberculosis involve microorganisms. So for ordinary people that have an idea of microor
g
anisms as
disease causing agents
,
just the idea
of it
is a motive for precautions which Is
something overall good.

Some

other

people believe that new
transformed microorganisms will be the cause of new diseases that
will kill mill
ions of people and may even destroy the human race
. These are perhaps scienc
e fiction
scenarios
that are

based on good evidence from the <<black>> history of patho
genic microor
ganisms.
But
for now we should just indulge in drinking a glass of wine or eating an expensive cheese and
,

simply
thank those little creatures that offer us these unique pleasures.


CONCLUSION


W
e must acknowledge microorganism’s

importance and participation in the progress of human
civilization but
,

we should never forget the constant dan
ger they pose and constantly

take the
appropriate protections against them.








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REFERENCES:

Campbell, Reece, Urry, Cain, Wasserman,
Minorsky, Jackson, 2008. Biology.

Bacteria and Archaea.

Masters of Adaptatio
n,Archa
.

Pearson Benjamin Cummings
, pp.
556,
5
66
-
567
.

Campbell, Reece, Urry, Cain, Wasserman, Minorsky, Jackson, 2008. Biology.

Ecosystems.
Observing
Ecosystems, Physical laws gover
n energy flow and chemical cycling in ecosystems
.

Pearson Benjamin
Cummings
, pp. 1222
-
1224.


Use of microorganisms in food industry at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermentation_(food)

(Accessed 01/03/2009)


Use of microorganisms for production of antibiotics and vaccines at:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/7186847/Microorganisms
-
in
-
Biotech

(Accessed 01/03/2009)


Human

Flora at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_flora

(Accessed 01/03/2009)

















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APPENDICES:


Figure 1
: Magnification of E.coli bacterium.

(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:E_coli_at_10000x,_original.jpg
)


Figure 1.0
: Dead tree decomposing.

(
http://www.litzsinger.org/weblog/archives/email%20FallenTrunk3%20LREC%20101405.jpg
)


Figure 1.1
: Beer fermenting at a brewery.

(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wye_Valley_fermenter.jpg
)


Figure 1.2
: Wastewater treatment.

(
http://www.ceseng.us/images/dcp00020_a.jpg
)


Figure 1.
3
: Penicillium notatum

.

(
http://www.bioweb.uncc.edu/1110Lab/notes/notes1/labpics/Penicillium%20conidiophores%20100x.jpg
)


Figure 1.4
: Oil spill clear up.

(
http://www.oneinchpunch.net/wordpress/wp
-
content/uploads/2007/12/crude
-
oil
-
spill
-
clear
-
up.jpg
)