Microorganism

A microorganism, or microbe,[a] is a microscopic organism, which may exist in its single-celled form or in a colony of cells.

The possible existence of unseen microbial life was suspected from ancient times, such as in Jain scriptures from 6th century BC India and the 1st century BC book On Agriculture by Marcus Terentius Varro. Microbiology, the scientific study of microorganisms, began with their observation under the microscope in the 1670s by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. In the 1850s, Louis Pasteur found that microorganisms caused food spoilage, debunking the theory of spontaneous generation. In the 1880s, Robert Koch discovered that microorganisms caused the diseases tuberculosis, cholera and anthrax.

Microorganisms include all unicellular organisms and so are extremely diverse. Of the three domains of life identified by Carl Woese, all of the Archaea and Bacteria are microorganisms. These were previously grouped together in the two domain system as Prokaryotes, the other being the eukaryotes. The third domain Eukaryota includes all multicellular organisms and many unicellular protists and protozoans. Some protists are related to animals and some to green plants. Many of the multicellular organisms are microscopic, namely micro-animals, some fungi and some algae, but these are not discussed here.

They live in almost every habitat from the poles to the equator, deserts, geysers, rocks and the deep sea. Some are adapted to extremes such as very hot or very cold conditions, others to high pressure and a few such as Deinococcus radiodurans to high radiation environments. Microorganisms also make up the microbiota found in and on all multicellular organisms. A December 2017 report stated that 3.45-billion-year-old Australian rocks once contained microorganisms, the earliest direct evidence of life on Earth.[1][2]

Microbes are important in human culture and health in many ways, serving to ferment foods, treat sewage, produce fuel, enzymes and other bioactive compounds. They are essential tools in biology as model organisms and have been put to use in biological warfare and bioterrorism. They are a vital component of fertile soils. In the human body microorganisms make up the human microbiota including the essential gut flora. They are the pathogens responsible for many infectious diseases and as such are the target of hygiene measures.

E coli at 10000x, original
A cluster of Escherichia coli bacteria magnified 10,000 times

History and discovery

Anthonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723). Natuurkundige te Delft Rijksmuseum SK-A-957.jpeg
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to study microorganisms, using simple microscopes of his own design.
Spallanzani
Lazzaro Spallanzani showed that boiling a broth stopped it from decaying.

Ancient precursors

Mahaveer swami
Vardhmana Mahavira postulated the existence of microscopic creatures in the 6th century BC.

The possible existence of microorganisms was discussed for many centuries before their discovery in the 17th century. By the fifth century BC, the Jains of present-day India postulated the existence of tiny organisms called nigodas.[3] These nigodas are said to be born in clusters; they live everywhere, including the bodies of plants, animals, and people; and their life lasts only for fraction of a second.[4] According to the Jain leader Mahavira, the humans destroy these nigodas on a massive scale, when they eat, breathe, sit and move.[3] Many modern Jains assert that Mahavira's teachings presage the existence of microorganisms as discovered by modern science.[5]

The earliest known idea to indicate the possibility of diseases spreading by yet unseen organisms was that of the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro in a 1st-century BC book titled On Agriculture in which he called the unseen creatures animalcules, and warns against locating a homestead near a swamp:[6]

… and because there are bred certain minute creatures that cannot be seen by the eyes, which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and they cause serious diseases.[6]

In The Canon of Medicine (1020), Avicenna suggested that tuberculosis and other diseases might be contagious.[7][8]

Early modern

Akshamsaddin (Turkish scientist) mentioned the microbe in his work Maddat ul-Hayat (The Material of Life) about two centuries prior to Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek's discovery through experimentation:

It is incorrect to assume that diseases appear one by one in humans. Disease infects by spreading from one person to another. This infection occurs through seeds that are so small they cannot be seen but are alive.[9][10]

In 1546, Girolamo Fracastoro proposed that epidemic diseases were caused by transferable seedlike entities that could transmit infection by direct or indirect contact, or even without contact over long distances.[11]

Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek is considered to be the father of microbiology. He was the first in 1673 to discover, observe, describe, study and conduct scientific experiments with microoorganisms, using simple single-lensed microscopes of his own design.[12][13][14][15] Robert Hooke, a contemporary of Leeuwenhoek, also used microscopy to observe microbial life in the form of the fruiting bodies of moulds. In his 1665 book Micrographia, he made drawings of studies, and he coined the term cell.[16]

19th century

Albert Edelfelt - Louis Pasteur - 1885
Louis Pasteur showed that Spallanzani's findings held even if air could enter through a filter that kept particles out.

Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) exposed boiled broths to the air, in vessels that contained a filter to prevent particles from passing through to the growth medium, and also in vessels without a filter, but with air allowed in via a curved tube so dust particles would settle and not come in contact with the broth. By boiling the broth beforehand, Pasteur ensured that no microorganisms survived within the broths at the beginning of his experiment. Nothing grew in the broths in the course of Pasteur's experiment. This meant that the living organisms that grew in such broths came from outside, as spores on dust, rather than spontaneously generated within the broth. Thus, Pasteur refuted the theory of spontaneous generation and supported the germ theory of disease.[17]

Robert Koch
Robert Koch showed that microorganisms caused disease.

In 1876, Robert Koch (1843–1910) established that microorganisms can cause disease. He found that the blood of cattle which were infected with anthrax always had large numbers of Bacillus anthracis. Koch found that he could transmit anthrax from one animal to another by taking a small sample of blood from the infected animal and injecting it into a healthy one, and this caused the healthy animal to become sick. He also found that he could grow the bacteria in a nutrient broth, then inject it into a healthy animal, and cause illness. Based on these experiments, he devised criteria for establishing a causal link between a microorganism and a disease and these are now known as Koch's postulates.[18] Although these postulates cannot be applied in all cases, they do retain historical importance to the development of scientific thought and are still being used today.[19]

The discovery of microorganisms such as Euglena that did not fit into either the animal or plant kingdoms, since they were photosynthetic like plants, but motile like animals, led to the naming of a third kingdom in the 1860s. In 1860 John Hogg called this the Protoctista, and in 1866 Ernst Haeckel named it the Protista.[20][21][22]

The work of Pasteur and Koch did not accurately reflect the true diversity of the microbial world because of their exclusive focus on microorganisms having direct medical relevance. It was not until the work of Martinus Beijerinck and Sergei Winogradsky late in the 19th century that the true breadth of microbiology was revealed.[23] Beijerinck made two major contributions to microbiology: the discovery of viruses and the development of enrichment culture techniques.[24] While his work on the Tobacco Mosaic Virus established the basic principles of virology, it was his development of enrichment culturing that had the most immediate impact on microbiology by allowing for the cultivation of a wide range of microbes with wildly different physiologies. Winogradsky was the first to develop the concept of chemolithotrophy and to thereby reveal the essential role played by microorganisms in geochemical processes.[25] He was responsible for the first isolation and description of both nitrifying and nitrogen-fixing bacteria.[23] French-Canadian microbiologist Felix d'Herelle co-discovered bacteriophages and was one of the earliest applied microbiologists.[26]

Classification and structure

Microorganisms can be found almost anywhere on Earth. Bacteria and archaea are almost always microscopic, while a number of eukaryotes are also microscopic, including most protists, some fungi, as well as some micro-animals and plants. Viruses are generally regarded as not living and therefore not considered as microorganisms, although a subfield of microbiology is virology, the study of viruses.[27][28][29]

Evolution

BacteriaArchaeaEucaryotaAquifexThermotogaCytophagaBacteroidesBacteroides-CytophagaPlanctomycesCyanobacteriaProteobacteriaSpirochetesGram-positive bacteriaGreen filantous bacteriaPyrodicticumThermoproteusThermococcus celerMethanococcusMethanobacteriumMethanosarcinaHalophilesEntamoebaeSlime moldAnimalFungusPlantCiliateFlagellateTrichomonadMicrosporidiaDiplomonad
Carl Woese's 1990 phylogenetic tree based on rRNA data shows the domains of Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukaryota. All are microorganisms except some eukaryote groups.

Single-celled microorganisms were the first forms of life to develop on Earth, approximately 3–4 billion years ago.[30][31][32] Further evolution was slow,[33] and for about 3 billion years in the Precambrian eon, (much of the history of life on Earth), all organisms were microorganisms.[34][35] Bacteria, algae and fungi have been identified in amber that is 220 million years old, which shows that the morphology of microorganisms has changed little since the Triassic period.[36] The newly discovered biological role played by nickel, however — especially that brought about by volcanic eruptions from the Siberian Traps — may have accelerated the evolution of methanogens towards the end of the Permian–Triassic extinction event.[37]

Microorganisms tend to have a relatively fast rate of evolution. Most microorganisms can reproduce rapidly, and bacteria are also able to freely exchange genes through conjugation, transformation and transduction, even between widely divergent species.[38] This horizontal gene transfer, coupled with a high mutation rate and other means of transformation, allows microorganisms to swiftly evolve (via natural selection) to survive in new environments and respond to environmental stresses. This rapid evolution is important in medicine, as it has led to the development of multidrug resistant pathogenic bacteria, superbugs, that are resistant to antibiotics.[39]

A possible transitional form of microorganism between a prokaryote and a eukaryote was discovered in 2012 by Japanese scientists. Parakaryon myojinensis is a unique microorganism larger than a typical prokaryote, but with nuclear material enclosed in a membrane as in a eukaryote, and the presence of endosymbionts. This is seen to be the first plausible evolutionary form of microorganism, showing a stage of development from the prokaryote to the eukaryote.[40][41]

Archaea

Archaea are prokaryotic unicellular organisms, and form the first domain of life, in Carl Woese's three-domain system. A prokaryote is defined as having no cell nucleus or other membrane bound-organelle. Archaea share this defining feature with the bacteria with which they were once grouped. In 1990 the microbiologist Woese proposed the three-domain system that divided living things into bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes,[42] and thereby split the prokaryote domain.

Archaea differ from bacteria in both their genetics and biochemistry. For example, while bacterial cell membranes are made from phosphoglycerides with ester bonds, archaean membranes are made of ether lipids.[43] Archaea were originally described as extremophiles living in extreme environments, such as hot springs, but have since been found in all types of habitats.[44] Only now are scientists beginning to realize how common archaea are in the environment, with Crenarchaeota being the most common form of life in the ocean, dominating ecosystems below 150 m in depth.[45][46] These organisms are also common in soil and play a vital role in ammonia oxidation.[47]

The combined domains of archaea and bacteria make up the most diverse and abundant group of organisms on Earth and inhabit practically all environments where the temperature is below +140 °C. They are found in water, soil, air, as the microbiome of an organism, hot springs and even deep beneath the Earth's crust in rocks.[48] The number of prokaryotes is estimated to be around five million trillion trillion, or 5 × 1030, accounting for at least half the biomass on Earth.[49]

The biodiversity of the prokaryotes is unknown, but may be very large. A May 2016 estimate, based on laws of scaling from known numbers of species against the size of organism, gives an estimate of perhaps 1 trillion species on the planet, of which most would be microorganisms. Currently, only one-thousandth of one percent of that total have been described.[50]

Bacteria

Staphylococcus aureus 01
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria magnified about 10,000x

Bacteria like archaea are prokaryotic – unicellular, and having no cell nucleus or other membrane-bound organelle. Bacteria are microscopic, with a few extremely rare exceptions, such as Thiomargarita namibiensis.[51] Bacteria function and reproduce as individual cells, but they can often aggregate in multicellular colonies.[52] Some species such as myxobacteria can aggregate into complex swarming structures, operating as multicellular groups as part of their life cycle,[53] or form clusters in bacterial colonies such as E.coli.

Their genome is usually a circular bacterial chromosome – a single loop of DNA, although they can also harbor small pieces of DNA called plasmids. These plasmids can be transferred between cells through bacterial conjugation. Bacteria have an enclosing cell wall, which provides strength and rigidity to their cells. They reproduce by binary fission or sometimes by budding, but do not undergo meiotic sexual reproduction. However, many bacterial species can transfer DNA between individual cells by a horizontal gene transfer process referred to as natural transformation.[54] Some species form extraordinarily resilient spores, but for bacteria this is a mechanism for survival, not reproduction. Under optimal conditions bacteria can grow extremely rapidly and their numbers can double as quickly as every 20 minutes.[55]

Eukaryotes

Most living things that are visible to the naked eye in their adult form are eukaryotes, including humans. However, a large number of eukaryotes are also microorganisms. Unlike bacteria and archaea, eukaryotes contain organelles such as the cell nucleus, the Golgi apparatus and mitochondria in their cells. The nucleus is an organelle that houses the DNA that makes up a cell's genome. DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) itself is arranged in complex chromosomes.[56] Mitochondria are organelles vital in metabolism as they are the site of the citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation. They evolved from symbiotic bacteria and retain a remnant genome.[57] Like bacteria, plant cells have cell walls, and contain organelles such as chloroplasts in addition to the organelles in other eukaryotes. Chloroplasts produce energy from light by photosynthesis, and were also originally symbiotic bacteria.[57]

Unicellular eukaryotes consist of a single cell throughout their life cycle. This qualification is significant since most multicellular eukaryotes consist of a single cell called a zygote only at the beginning of their life cycles. Microbial eukaryotes can be either haploid or diploid, and some organisms have multiple cell nuclei.[58]

Unicellular eukaryotes usually reproduce asexually by mitosis under favorable conditions. However, under stressful conditions such as nutrient limitations and other conditions associated with DNA damage, they tend to reproduce sexually by meiosis and syngamy.[59]

Protists

Of eukaryotic groups, the protists are most commonly unicellular and microscopic. This is a highly diverse group of organisms that are not easy to classify.[60][61] Several algae species are multicellular protists, and slime molds have unique life cycles that involve switching between unicellular, colonial, and multicellular forms.[62] The number of species of protists is unknown since only a small proportion has been identified. Protist diversity is high in oceans, deep sea-vents, river sediment and an acidic river, suggesting that many eukaryotic microbial communities may yet be discovered.[63][64]

Fungi

The fungi have several unicellular species, such as baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe). Some fungi, such as the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans, can undergo phenotypic switching and grow as single cells in some environments, and filamentous hyphae in others.[65]

Plants

The green algae are a large group of photosynthetic eukaryotes that include many microscopic organisms. Although some green algae are classified as protists, others such as charophyta are classified with embryophyte plants, which are the most familiar group of land plants. Algae can grow as single cells, or in long chains of cells. The green algae include unicellular and colonial flagellates, usually but not always with two flagella per cell, as well as various colonial, coccoid, and filamentous forms. In the Charales, which are the algae most closely related to higher plants, cells differentiate into several distinct tissues within the organism. There are about 6000 species of green algae.[66]

Ecology

Microorganisms are found in almost every habitat present in nature, including hostile environments such as the North and South poles, deserts, geysers, and rocks. They also include all the marine microorganisms of the oceans and deep sea. Some types of microorganisms have adapted to extreme environments and sustained colonies; these organisms are known as extremophiles. Extremophiles have been isolated from rocks as much as 7 kilometres below the Earth's surface,[67] and it has been suggested that the amount of organisms living below the Earth's surface is comparable with the amount of life on or above the surface.[48] Extremophiles have been known to survive for a prolonged time in a vacuum, and can be highly resistant to radiation, which may even allow them to survive in space.[68] Many types of microorganisms have intimate symbiotic relationships with other larger organisms; some of which are mutually beneficial (mutualism), while others can be damaging to the host organism (parasitism). If microorganisms can cause disease in a host they are known as pathogens and then they are sometimes referred to as microbes. Microorganisms play critical roles in Earth's biogeochemical cycles as they are responsible for decomposition and nitrogen fixation.[69]

Bacteria use regulatory networks that allow them to adapt to almost every environmental niche on earth.[70][71] A network of interactions among diverse types of molecules including DNA, RNA, proteins and metabolites, is utilised by the bacteria to achieve regulation of gene expression. In bacteria, the principal function of regulatory networks is to control the response to environmental changes, for example nutritional status and environmental stress.[72] A complex organization of networks permits the microorganism to coordinate and integrate multiple environmental signals.[70]

Extremophiles

Extremophiles are microorganisms that have adapted so that they can survive and even thrive in extreme environments that are normally fatal to most life-forms. Thermophiles and hyperthermophiles thrive in high temperatures. Psychrophiles thrive in extremely low temperatures. – Temperatures as high as 130 °C (266 °F),[73] as low as −17 °C (1 °F)[74] Halophiles such as Halobacterium salinarum (an archaean) thrive in high salt conditions, up to saturation.[75] Alkaliphiles thrive in an alkaline pH of about 8.5–11.[76] Acidophiles can thrive in a pH of 2.0 or less.[77] Piezophiles thrive at very high pressures: up to 1,000–2,000 atm, down to 0 atm as in a vacuum of space.[78] A few extremophiles such as Deinococcus radiodurans are radioresistant,[79] resisting radiation exposure of up to 5k Gy. Extremophiles are significant in different ways. They extend terrestrial life into much of the Earth's hydrosphere, crust and atmosphere, their specific evolutionary adaptation mechanisms to their extreme environment can be exploited in biotechnology, and their very existence under such extreme conditions increases the potential for extraterrestrial life.[80]

In soil

The nitrogen cycle in soils depends on the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen. This is achieved by a number of diazotrophs. One way this can occur is in the root nodules of legumes that contain symbiotic bacteria of the genera Rhizobium, Mesorhizobium, Sinorhizobium, Bradyrhizobium, and Azorhizobium.[81]

The roots of plants create a narrow region known as the rhizosphere that supports a large number of microorganisms known as the root microbiome.[82]

Symbiosis

Hyella caespitosa
The photosynthetic cyanobacterium Hyella caespitosa (round shapes) with fungal hyphae (translucent threads) in the lichen Pyrenocollema halodytes

A lichen is a symbiosis of a macroscopic fungus with photosynthetic microbial algae or cyanobacteria.[83][84]

Applications

Microorganisms are useful in producing foods, treating waste water, creating biofuels and a wide range of chemicals and enzymes. They are invaluable in research as model organisms. They have been weaponised and sometimes used in warfare and bioterrorism. They are vital to agriculture through their roles in maintaining soil fertility and in decomposing organic matter.[85]

Food production

Microorganisms are used in a fermentation process to make yoghurt, cheese, curd, kefir, ayran, xynogala, and other types of food. Fermentation cultures provide flavor and aroma, and inhibit undesirable organisms.[86] They are used to leaven bread, and to convert sugars to alcohol in wine and beer. Microorganisms are used in brewing, wine making, baking, pickling and other food-making processes.[87]

Water treatment

WWTP Antwerpen-Zuid
Wastewater treatment plants rely largely on microorganisms to oxidise organic matter.

These depend for their ability to clean up water contaminated with organic material on microorganisms that can respire dissolved substances. Respiration may be aerobic, with a well-oxygenated filter bed such as a slow sand filter.[88] Anaerobic digestion by methanogens generate useful methane gas as a by-product.[89]

Energy

Microorganisms are used in fermentation to produce ethanol,[90] and in biogas reactors to produce methane.[91] Scientists are researching the use of algae to produce liquid fuels,[92] and bacteria to convert various forms of agricultural and urban waste into usable fuels.[93]

Chemicals, enzymes

Microorganisms are used to produce many commercial and industrial chemicals, enzymes and other bioactive molecules. Organic acids produced on a large industrial scale by microbial fermentation include acetic acid produced by acetic acid bacteria such as Acetobacter aceti, butyric acid made by the bacterium Clostridium butyricum, lactic acid made by Lactobacillus and other lactic acid bacteria,[94] and citric acid produced by the mould fungus Aspergillus niger.[94]

Microorganisms are used to prepare bioactive molecules such as Streptokinase from the bacterium Streptococcus,[95] Cyclosporin A from the ascomycete fungus Tolypocladium inflatum,[96] and statins produced by the yeast Monascus purpureus.[97]

Science

Biofermentor.jpeg
A laboratory fermentation vessel

Microorganisms are essential tools in biotechnology, biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology. The yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe are important model organisms in science, since they are simple eukaryotes that can be grown rapidly in large numbers and are easily manipulated.[98] They are particularly valuable in genetics, genomics and proteomics.[99][100] Microorganisms can be harnessed for uses such as creating steroids and treating skin diseases. Scientists are also considering using microorganisms for living fuel cells,[101] and as a solution for pollution.[102]

Warfare

In the Middle Ages, as an early example of biological warfare, diseased corpses were thrown into castles during sieges using catapults or other siege engines. Individuals near the corpses were exposed to the pathogen and were likely to spread that pathogen to others.[103]

In modern times, bioterrorism has included the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack[104] and the 1993 release of anthrax by Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo.[105]

Soil

Microbes can make nutrients and minerals in the soil available to plants, produce hormones that spur growth, stimulate the plant immune system and trigger or dampen stress responses. In general a more diverse set of soil microbes results in fewer plant diseases and higher yield.[106]

Human health

Human gut flora

Microorganisms can form an endosymbiotic relationship with other, larger organisms. For example, microbial symbiosis plays a crucial role in the immune system. The microorganisms that make up the gut flora in the gastrointestinal tract contribute to gut immunity, synthesize vitamins such as folic acid and biotin, and ferment complex indigestible carbohydrates.[107] Some microorganisms that are seen to be beneficial to health are termed probiotics and are available as dietary supplements, or food additives.[108]

Disease

Plasmodium
The eukaryotic parasite Plasmodium falciparum (spiky blue shapes), a causative agent of malaria, in human blood

Microorganisms are the causative agents (pathogens) in many infectious diseases. The organisms involved include pathogenic bacteria, causing diseases such as plague, tuberculosis and anthrax; protozoan parasites, causing diseases such as malaria, sleeping sickness, dysentery and toxoplasmosis; and also fungi causing diseases such as ringworm, candidiasis or histoplasmosis. However, other diseases such as influenza, yellow fever or AIDS are caused by pathogenic viruses, which are not usually classified as living organisms and are not, therefore, microorganisms by the strict definition. No clear examples of archaean pathogens are known,[109] although a relationship has been proposed between the presence of some archaean methanogens and human periodontal disease.[110]

Hygiene

Hygiene is a set of practices to avoid infection or food spoilage by eliminating microorganisms from the surroundings. As microorganisms, in particular bacteria, are found virtually everywhere, harmful microorganisms may be reduced to acceptable levels rather than actually eliminated. In food preparation, microorganisms are reduced by preservation methods such as cooking, cleanliness of utensils, short storage periods, or by low temperatures. If complete sterility is needed, as with surgical equipment, an autoclave is used to kill microorganisms with heat and pressure.[111][112]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The word microorganism (/ˌmaɪkroʊˈɔːrɡənɪzəm/) uses combining forms of micro- (from the Greek: μικρός, mikros, "small") and organism from the Greek: ὀργανισμός, organismós, "organism"). It is usually styled solid but is sometimes hyphenated (micro-organism), especially in older texts. The informal synonym microbe (/ˈmaɪkroʊb/) comes from μικρός, mikrós, "small" and βίος, bíos, "life".

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External links

Anaerobic organism

An anaerobic organism or anaerobe is any organism that does not require oxygen for growth. It may react negatively or even die if free oxygen is present. In contrast, an aerobic organism (aerobe) is an organism that requires an oxygenated environment. Anaerobes may be unicellular (e.g. protozoans, bacteria) or multicellular.

Ancoracysta twista

Ancoracysta twista is a eukaryotic microorganism. It is a predatory protist that appears to be sister to the Haptista.

Antarctic microorganism

Antarctica is one of the most physically and chemically extreme terrestrial environments to be inhabited by microorganisms. Nonetheless, on February 6, 2013, scientists reported that bacteria were found living in the cold and dark in a lake buried a half-mile deep (0.80 km) under the ice in Antarctica. This finding was later confirmed by scientists on August 20, 2014.

Biological hazard

Biological hazards, also known as biohazards, refer to biological substances that pose a threat to the health of living organisms, primarily that of humans. This can include samples of a microorganism, virus or toxin (from a biological source) that can affect human health. It can also include substances harmful to other animals.

The term and its associated symbol are generally used as a warning, so that those potentially exposed to the substances will know to take precautions. The biohazard symbol was developed in 1966 by Charles Baldwin, an environmental-health engineer working for the Dow Chemical Company on the containment products.It is used in the labeling of biological materials that carry a significant health risk, including viral samples and used hypodermic needles.

In Unicode, the biohazard symbol is U+2623 (☣).

Effective microorganism

Effective microorganisms (EM) are various blends of common predominantly anaerobic microorganisms in a carbohydrate-rich liquid carrier substrate (molasses nutrient solution) of EM Research Organization, Inc.,

Higa said "EM is a God"

The efficacy of EM on agricultural crops has been studied throughout the world. A review article (2013), which studies the nature of EM and the effect of EM on growth, yield, quality, and protection of vegetable plants, conclude “in 70% of published studies, it was concluded that EM had a positive effect on growth of vegetable, while, in the other 30%, they had no significant influence.Some studies stated that Effective microorganisms (EM-A, EM-Bokashi) show no effect on yield and soil microbiology in field experiments as bio-fertilizer in organic farming.

Many of the so-called "pit additives" used for improving the performance of sanitation systems, namely pit latrines, septic tanks and wastewater treatment plants, are also based on EM. Despite the claims made by manufacturers, available studies which have used scientific methods to investigate these additives have come to the conclusion that long-term beneficial effects are not proven.

Endocarditis

Endocarditis is an inflammation of the inner layer of the heart, the endocardium. It usually involves the heart valves. Other structures that may be involved include the interventricular septum, the chordae tendineae, the mural endocardium, or the surfaces of intracardiac devices. Endocarditis is characterized by lesions, known as vegetations, which is a mass of platelets, fibrin, microcolonies of microorganisms, and scant inflammatory cells. In the subacute form of infective endocarditis, the vegetation may also include a center of granulomatous tissue, which may fibrose or calcify.There are several ways to classify endocarditis. The simplest classification is based on cause: either infective or non-infective, depending on whether a microorganism is the source of the inflammation or not. Regardless, the diagnosis of endocarditis is based on clinical features, investigations such as an echocardiogram, and blood cultures demonstrating the presence of endocarditis-causing microorganisms.

Signs and symptoms include fever, chills, sweating, malaise, weakness, anorexia, weight loss, splenomegaly, flu-like feeling, cardiac murmur, heart failure, petechia (red spots on the skin), Osler's nodes (subcutaneous nodules found on hands and feet), Janeway lesions (nodular lesions on palms and soles), and Roth's spots (retinal hemorrhages).

Enterotoxin

An enterotoxin is a protein exotoxin released by a microorganism that targets the intestines.Enterotoxins are chromosomally encoded or plasmid encoded exotoxins that are produced and secreted from several bacterial organisms. They are often heat-stable, and are of low molecular weight and water-soluble. Enterotoxins are frequently cytotoxic and kill cells by altering the apical membrane permeability of the mucosal (epithelial) cells of the intestinal wall. They are mostly pore-forming toxins (mostly chloride pores), secreted by bacteria, that assemble to form pores in cell membranes. This causes the cells to die.

Exposing Microorganisms in the Stratosphere

Exposing Microorganisms in the Stratosphere (E-MIST) is a NASA study to determine if a specific microorganism could survive conditions like those on the planet Mars. The study transported Bacillus pumilus bacteria and their spores by helium-filled balloon to the stratosphere of Earth (~31 km above sea level) and monitored the ability of the microorganisms to survive in extreme Martian-like conditions such as low pressure, dryness, cold, and ionizing radiation.A test flight of the balloon and gondola was launched from New Mexico on 24 August 2014. A second, longer flight, took place on 10 October 2015.

Growth medium

A growth medium or culture medium is a solid, liquid or semi-solid designed to support the growth of microorganisms or cells, or small plants like the moss Physcomitrella patens.

Different types of media are used for growing different types of cells.The two major types of growth media are those used for cell culture, which use specific cell types derived from plants or animals, and microbiological culture, which are used for growing microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi. The most common growth media for microorganisms are nutrient broths and agar plates; specialized media are sometimes required for microorganism and cell culture growth. Some organisms, termed fastidious organisms, require specialized environments due to complex nutritional requirements. Viruses, for example, are obligate intracellular parasites and require a growth medium containing living cells.

Marine microorganism

Marine microorganisms are defined by their habitat as the microorganisms living in a marine environment, that is, in the saltwater of a sea or ocean or the brackish water of a coastal estuary. A microorganism (or microbe) is any microscopic living organism, that is, any life form too small for the naked human eye to see, needing a microscope. Microorganisms are very diverse. They can be single-celled or multicellular and include all bacteria and archaea and most protozoa, as well as some species of fungi, algae, and certain microscopic animals, such as rotifers. Many macroscopic animals and plants have microscopic juvenile stages. Some microbiologists also classify viruses (and viroids) as microorganisms, but others consider these as nonliving. In July 2016, scientists reported identifying a set of 355 genes from the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of all life, including microorganisms, living on Earth.Marine microorganisms constitute about 70% of the biomass in the sea. They are crucial to nutrient recycling in ecosystems as they act as decomposers. A small proportion of microorganisms are pathogenic, causing disease and even death in plants and animals. As inhabitants of the largest environment on Earth, microbial marine systems drive changes in every global system. Microbes are responsible for virtually all the photosynthesis that occurs in the ocean, as well as the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients and trace elements.Despite its diversity, microscopic life in the oceans is still poorly understood. For example, the role of viruses in marine ecosystems has barely been explored even in the beginning of the 21st century.

Microaerophile

A microaerophile is a microorganism that requires oxygen to survive, but requires environments containing lower levels of oxygen than are present in the atmosphere (i.e. <21% O2; typically 2–10% O2). Many microaerophiles are also capnophiles, requiring an elevated concentration of carbon dioxide (e.g. 10% CO2 in the case of Campylobacter species).

Microbial cyst

A microbial cyst is a resting or dormant stage of a microorganism, usually a bacterium or a protist or rarely an invertebrate animal, that helps the organism to survive in unfavorable environmental conditions. It can be thought of as a state of suspended animation in which the metabolic processes of the cell are slowed down and the cell ceases all activities like feeding and locomotion. Encystment also helps the microbe to disperse easily, from one host to another or to a more favorable environment. When the encysted microbe reaches an environment favorable to its growth and survival, the cyst wall breaks down by a process known as excystation.

Unfavorable environmental conditions such as lack of nutrients or oxygen, extreme temperatures, lack of moisture and presence of toxic chemicals, which are not conducive for the growth of the microbe trigger the formation of a cyst.

Microbial metabolism

Microbial metabolism is the means by which a microbe obtains the energy and nutrients (e.g. carbon) it needs to live and reproduce. Microbes use many different types of metabolic strategies and species can often be differentiated from each other based on metabolic characteristics. The specific metabolic properties of a microbe are the major factors in determining that microbe's ecological niche, and often allow for that microbe to be useful in industrial processes or responsible for biogeochemical cycles.

Nitrogen dating

Nitrogen dating is a form of relative dating which relies on the reliable breakdown and release of amino acids from bone samples to estimate the age of the object. For human bones, the assumption of about 5% nitrogen in the bone, mostly in the form of collogen, allows fairly consistent dating techniques.Compared to other dating techniques, Nitrogen dating can be unreliable because leaching from bone is dependent on temperature, soil pH, ground water, and the presence of microorganism that digest nitrogen rich elements, like collagen. Some studies compare nitrogen dating results with dating results from methods like fluorine absorption dating to create more accurate estimates. Though some situations, like thin porous bones might more rapidly change the dating created by multiple methods.

Pathogen

In biology, a pathogen (Greek: πάθος pathos "suffering, passion" and -γενής -genēs "producer of"), in the oldest and broadest sense, is anything that can produce disease. A pathogen may also be referred to as an infectious agent, or simply a germ.

The term pathogen came into use in the 1880s. Typically, the term is used to describe an infectious microorganism or agent, such as a virus, bacterium, protozoan, prion, viroid, or fungus. Small animals, such as certain kinds of worms and insect larvae, can also produce disease. However, these animals are usually, in common parlance, referred to as parasites rather than pathogens. The scientific study of microscopic organisms, including microscopic pathogenic organisms, is called microbiology, while the study of disease that may include these pathogens is called pathology. Parasitology, meanwhile, is the scientific study of parasites and the organisms that host them.

There are several pathways through which pathogens can invade a host. The principal pathways have different episodic time frames, but soil has the longest or most persistent potential for harboring a pathogen. Diseases in humans that are caused by infectious agents are known as pathogenic diseases, though not all diseases are caused by pathogens. Some diseases, such as Huntington's disease, are caused by inheritance of abnormal genes.

Plankton

Plankton are the diverse collection of organisms that live in large bodies of water and are unable to swim against a current. The individual organisms constituting plankton are called plankters. They provide a crucial source of food to many large aquatic organisms, such as fish and whales.

These organisms include bacteria, archaea, algae, protozoa and drifting or floating animals that inhabit—for example—the pelagic zone of oceans, seas, or bodies of fresh water. Essentially, plankton are defined by their ecological niche rather than any phylogenetic or taxonomic classification.

Though many planktonic species are microscopic in size, plankton includes organisms over a wide range of sizes, including large organisms such as jellyfish.

Technically the term does not include organisms on the surface of the water, which are called pleuston—or those that swim actively in the water, which are called nekton.

Pneumonitis

Pneumonitis is an inflammation of lung tissue due to factors other than microorganisms. Those can be radiation therapy of the chest,, exposure to medications used during chemo-therapy, the inhalation of debris (e.g., animal dander) of food particles during vomiting, herbicides or fluorocarbons and some systemic diseases.

It is distinguished from pneumonia on the basis of causation as well as its manifestation since pneumonia can be described as pneumonitis combined with consolidation and exudation of lung tissue due to infection with microorganism.

The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain is a 1969 techno-thriller novel by Michael Crichton documenting the efforts of a team of scientists investigating the outbreak of a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism in Arizona. The Andromeda Strain appeared in the New York Times Best Seller list, establishing Michael Crichton as a genre writer.

Thermoacidophile

A thermoacidophile is an extremophilic microorganism that is both thermophilic and acidophilic; i.e., it can grow under conditions of high temperature and low pH. The large majority of thermoacidophiles are archaea (particularly the crenarchaeota and euryarchaeota) or bacteria, though occasional eukaryotic examples have been reported. Thermoacidophiles can be found in hot springs and solfataric environments, within deep sea vents, or in other environments of geothermal activity. They also occur in polluted environments, such as in acid mine drainage.An apparent tradeoff has been described between adaptation to high temperature and low pH; relatively few examples are known that are tolerant of the extremes of both environments (pH < 2, growth temperature > 80°C). Many thermoacidophilic archaea have aerobic or microaerophilic metabolism, although obligately anaerobic examples (e.g. the Acidilobales) have also been identified.Sequencing the genome of a thermoacidophilic eukaryote, the red algae Galdieria sulphuraria, revealed that its environmental adaptations likely originated from horizontal gene transfer from thermoacidophilic archaea and bacteria.

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