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GSE MICROBES - In health and Disease

Microbes -   In Health and Disease

What are Microbes/Microorganisms ?

Using a self-designed single-lens microscope, the Dutch merchant / amateur scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723) first observed microorganisms, which he called “ANIMALCULES”

Microorganisms are microscopic organisms – which can be either:

✔ A single cell

✔ Cell clusters

✔ Multicellular, more complex organisms

Microorganisms belong to diverse groups – including:

✔ Prokaryotes (Organisms whose cells lack a membrane-bound nucleus)

Bacteria single celled

Archaea (Not considered pathogens or parasites)

✔ Eukaryotes (Organisms whose cells contain a nucleus and other structures (organelles) enclosed within membranes)

Protozoa e.g. Giarda lamblia, Amoeba proteus, Cryptosporidium spp.

Fungi e.g. Candida Albicans

Algaee.g. seaweed

Microscopic plants (blue/green algae) contain chlorophyll, enabling them to make their own food from light and carbon dioxide; e.g. chlorella, spirulina;

Micro-animals e.g. dust and spider mites, rotifers, planarians

Microbes live in all ecosystems (the biosphere) and perform many essential functions:

✔ Decomposers

✔ Fix Nitrogen – separate the nitrogen atoms in nitrogen gas, making them available for many life essential processes (E.g. in DNA and proteins)

✔ Fermentation

Convert sugars into alcohol in beer/wine

Convert sugar into lactic acid - for food preservation (sauerkraut, yogurt), leavening (produces Carbon dioxide) or food pickling (producing acetic acid), or eliminating antinutrients

✔  Natural body flora - keeps pathogenicmicrobes in balance

✔  Biotechnology / Medicine – E.g. antibiotics

Some microorganisms can cause pathogenic disease

Pathogenic Disease occurs when a germ/infectious agent (i.e. Pathogenic Bacteria, Virus, Fungi/Yeast or protozoa) causes disease or illness to its host - Such a germ is called a pathogen.

–   Some bacteria which are a normal part of the body's flora, can become pathogenic - if their numbers get out of control or they move to and multiply in an area where they are not supposed to be

–   Pathogens can infect the body by various transmission routes affected by the widely varying length of survival of the microorganism outside of the body:

✔ Droplet contact - coughing or sneezing on another person

✔ Direct physical contact - touching an infected person, including sexual contact

✔ Indirect contact - usually by touching contaminated soil or a contaminated surface

✔ Airborne transmission - if the microorganism can remain in the air for long periods

✔ Fecal-oral transmission - usually from contaminated food or water sources

✔ Vector borne transmission - carried by insects or other animals

For more on the role of microbes in disease:

Bacteria

Viruses

Fungi

Protozoa

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