Bacteria are found almost everywhere like air, water, soil, and even in and on your body. In spite of their tiny, microscopic size, they are one of the most successful surviving species of the animal kingdom. The human body is a community for the bacteria population. There are more number of bacteria to be found on and in the human body than human cells! Take any part of your body, even the tiniest of hair, and you will find it is flourishing ecosystem of minimum 5 to 6 types of bacteria.
Fact File: You think a nice hot bath with a good antiseptic soap will help you get rid of these tiny guests on your body? Well, the answer is no. Even after a good wash there are over one million bacteria present on every square centimeter of your skin.
The first person who is thought to have observed bacteria was a Dutch merchant and amateur scientist Antony van Leeuwenhoek. He designed his own lens and observed bacteria and other organisms. He called these tiny creatures 'animalcules'. Over time and with advancement in the science of microbiology, bacteria were classified into the kingdom Prokaryotae. Bacteria are classified into three groups based on the shape of their cells. The spherical bacteria are called coccus, rod-like bacteria as bacillus, spiral or corkscrew as spirochete and the comma shaped bacteria are known as vibrio.
There are two types of bacteria - harmful bacteria to humans and beneficial bacteria to humans. Most of the bacteria do not cause disease in humans. Also, the beneficial bacteria to humans outnumber the harmful bacteria to humans in population. Bacteria have earned a bad reputation of being associated with diseases caused by bacteria and death. It is true that the human population was plagued with bacteria infections and bacteria were the major factor in the high rate of child mortality. The infections and the related deaths continued to decline over the years as more people became aware of personal hygiene and benefits of vaccination.
Bacteria are not just parasites to the human body. In fact, the human body can function normally, due to the help extended by these little creatures. If the number of bacteria increases or decreases, it leads to diseases. Although, bacteria love to grow on leftover food, decomposing plant matter, decaying dead bodies or stagnant water and everything disgusting and smelly, they are involved in certain good deeds also. The digestive system of the human body is where many beneficial bacteria to humans live. They compete with the harmful bacteria and help in certain body functions. There are over 500 species of bacteria that are found on human body as normal flora. The mouth alone houses over 25 species of bacteria. In the cecum, the initial part of the colon, there are over 108 million bacterial cells per millilitre of content.
Fact File: All of us are born absolutely sterile with not a single organism growing on or inside our bodies. As we come in contact with the environment, breathe air and drink or eat, we are colonized by millions of organisms, who will remain with us even after death!
Beneficial bacteria to humans are very important for survival. They produce enzymes that help in the digestion of food, produce vitamins essential for our body, they fight for space with harmful bacteria and limit their growth, etc. Beneficial bacteria always grow in a state of equilibrium, until there numbers are disrupted by an external factor. Still not convinced about helpful bacteria to humans? Need some more explanations to clear your doubt on how is bacteria beneficial to humans?
How is Bacteria Beneficial to Humans?
Since time immortal, people have been known to add helpful bacteria to humans in food knowingly or unknowingly. Yogurt is the best example of fermented product that has been prepared by adding the helpful bacteria to humans. It is the best option of fermented dairy product for people who are lactose intolerant. Anaerobic beneficial bacteria to humans are also useful in fermentation of vinegar, antibiotic drugs, aging process of cheese etc.
Bacteria help break down the organic fertilizers into matter, that can be easily taken up by plants. There are some soil species of bacteria that convert nitrogen into nitrates, that are absorbed by plants. Helpful bacteria to humans chemically breakdown the woody and tough tissues of jut, hemp, coconut and flax.
Bioremediation is a sewage disposal system, wherein beneficial bacteria are incorporated into the water or soil to break down toxic pollutants like oil, pesticides, etc. into harmless substances. Today, there are number of commercial products called probiotics that claim to be beneficial bacteria to human health. They aid in the digestive health by breaking down complex parts and helping in their ready absorption into the body. They are also known to ferment dietary fiber and help in short chain fatty acid production, which is very important for production of new cells for regeneration of the intestinal tract. These helpful bacteria to humans also cleanse the bloodstream of toxins and enhance the immune system.
Bacteria were the first living organisms that were found on Earth. They make up a significant part of the total biomass on Earth. These invisible, tiny organisms have proven time and over that they are not just disease causing, death carriers. Beneficial bacteria to humans have helped in producing cheese and butter to antibiotics, breaking down heavy petrochemicals to pesticides. Humans just cannot survive without these beneficial bacteria, although, they may carry on very well without us.