Bacteria can be referred to as cells having no nucleus and other organelles. It is a unicellular organism. They go through asexual reproduction, through binary fission to be specific.
People usually associate bacteria with diseases and illness, but that is not true. Our bodies are full of essential bacteria that make our digestion, excretion and respiration possible. There are disease causing bacteria as well, but there are warrior bacteria in our body to fight them as well. One must consult their dietician to know more about the effect of bacteria through their food intake.
Let us, in brief, discuss the good and the bad bacteria.
Positive effects of bacteria
There are two types of bacteria. Below stated are the characteristics displayed by the good bacteria.
Bacteria are responsible for our digestive activities. The bacteria E. coli is responsible for breaking down the lactose. They are present in the digestive tract of humans. The intestines of humans are inhabited by bacteria that help in digestion. Some bacteria are also known to release essential vitamins in the body of humans.
When toxins are produced in the body, the so called “good bacteria” multiply rapidly and release chemicals to hinder the growth of diseases in the body. For example, the bacteria present in our stomach maintain the pH and acidity level in the stomach. Our body is like a home to bacteria who work constantly to keep our immunity levels up. Bifidobacteria are those who reside in the intestine and help fight against diarrhea. Ulcerative colitis, bowel syndrome, yeast infections and atopic eczema can also be curbed if the bifidobacteria are in sufficient number.
Certain nitrogen fixing bacteria present in the roots of legumes and other such plants help keep the nitrogen cycle alive. It is an essential process to keep the atmosphere of the earth balanced.
Bacteria are responsible for fermentation. Fermentation isn’t only important to make tasty dishes to eat, but is useful in a medical sense. The bacteria Lactobacillus casei present in fermented milk help check the level of harmful bacteria Helicobacter pylori in the body of children.
Some meekly harmful bacteria can prove to be good antibiotics to the body. When these are introduced in the body, the antibiotic mechanism in our body is activated. It is a kind of practice for the body which makes it fit to face bigger and more dangerous bacterial infections.
Bacteria play an important role in decaying waste matter and turning it into elemental stuff. If not for bacteria, we would have been surrounded by garbage. Manure would have been nonexistent.
Negative effects of bacteria
The other kind of bacteria, the bad ones, is the reason to the points mentioned below. Bacteria are believed to be a harmful species on Earth. Saprophytes by nature, some of them are truly fatal.
Pathogens are disease causing bacteria. They are responsible for ejecting toxins and causing diseases ranging from common cold to colon cancer. Typhoid, cholera, pneumonia, tuberculosis, tetanus and dysentery are all caused by harmful bacteria. Even plants are affected by these pathogens and experience diseases such as “ring disease” (potato), “yellowing rot” (wheat), “citrus canker”, and “wilt of cucumber”. Bacteria like the Salmonella can cause diarrhea in humans. 90% of the gastrointestinal infections we suffer are caused by ingestion of food infested with the negative kind of bacteria. Escherichia coli, proteus or Klebsiella in extreme doses are harmful and can also spoil food .
Bacteria are the main cause of food spoilage. They decay fruits and bread and act as saprophytes. Growth of clostridium botulinum in canned food can also lead to deaths of consumers. Preservation is a technique to fight the growth of bacteria. Using salt and sugar are the most common forms of food preservation.
Certain bacteria like the Bacillus denitrificans are responsible for converting nitrates of the soils to nitrites and ammonium compounds. This reduces the fertility of the soil by liberating free nitrogen. They disturb the harmony of the nitrogen cycle and nitrogen being the most abundant gas in the atmosphere, it is a serious disbalance.
To sum it all up, bacteria is an important species. In fact, we all are bacterial colonies. To emphasize this, I’d like to quote Lynn Margulis, “Life on earth is such a good story you cannot afford to miss the beginning… Beneath our superficial differences we are all of us walking communities of bacteria. The world shimmers, a pointillist landscape made of tiny living beings.”