The Invisible Life Form
They have existed in this planet long before human beings evolved. They are the clear majority in an environment where humans had to adapt to live in. They are friends as well as foes. They are microorganisms...
Even the diehard non-vegetarians steered clear of chicken dishes for the past few months. Reason? Spread of Bird Flu, H5N1 avian influenza, that has been dominating the headlines. But you already know that, right? You also know that the virus has infected birds in both Asian and European countries, and has crossed the species barrier from bird to human(Refer GT October 2005, Flu on the Wing).
With the deadly virus knocking on our door, scientists are busy trying to produce a vaccine to counter the menace. This vaccine is being made from the same virus. Only this time it is being used to prepare our immune systems for the onslaught.
In sickness and in health...
Viruses, like Bird Flu, are microorganisms. So are bacteria like Meningococcal and E.coli. Names that spell terror, because they spread sickness among thousands every year. But, they are also the most effective tools to combat these dieases. A vaccine contains a very small amount of a virus or bacteria, not enough to make us sick, but enough to help our bodies build up immunity to them.
So if later you were to share a glass of water with a friend who was sick, your body would already be able to fight off the bacteria or virus without using medicines.
Life is made of these...
Microorganisms have been used to produce food, medicine and chemicals for centuries. The bowl of curd that you eat everyday is a prime example of how we use microorganisms. Bacteria are used to ferment the milk, allowing it to last longer in the form of curd. Yeast, a fungus, is a form of microorganism and has been used since 6000 BC to make beer, wine and vinegar! Later it was used to bake leavened breads.
Forging fresh ties...
That, of course, was a long time ago. Now scientists have learnt to develop new and more innovative ways of putting them to use and to make a much wider variety of products. Here, sample some: Fighting off pests: Some antibiotics, like penicillin, are produced naturally. Sometimes chemical synthesis techniques are applied to modify the process and produce new drugs. Cleaning up act:Everytime we flush our toilet, microorganisms get to work. A cocktail of bacteria and enzymes are used to clean the collected sewage.
Processing plants use microbes to consume a range of solidwaste materials. Micro-energy:It is well known that microbes produce alcohol from sugar.?Brewers have used these for centuries. Now this knowledge is providing us with renewable sources of fuels that are less polluting than petrol. Some examples of these processes are producing ethanol from sugarcane and methane from waste.
Body of bacteria: human beings
We need microorganisms to live. Billions of bacteria can be found in the human body and I don’t mean the kinds that make us sick. On the contrary, they are helpful. Most of these bacteria are found in the digestive track. They facilitate the process of digestion, and help in absorption of utrients in the intestine. Some actively synthesize essential vitamins like Vitamin K. And, of course, an army of ‘good’ bacteria are perpetually at war against the external ‘bad’ ones, in a bid to keep them out. Our intimate relationship with microorganisms will continue to evolve. Scientists will continue to open new doors. And who knows, the Bird Flu vaccine might be next one!
How To Keep
the bad ones out!
more about microbes
The family of microorganisms includes, not only viruses, bacteria and fungus, but also algae, archea and protozoa. Microorganisms are the oldest life forms on earth. Cyanobacteria used the original carbon dioxide in atmosphere to produce oxygen as a waste product. Thus making the air suitable for humans to breathe.