Biology 11 Bacteria

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Bacteria: a benefit or a hazard?

Bacteria is something we are all reminded of on a daily basis by merely switching on our televisions where we are bombarded with advertisements for both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. Contrary to the view of the past when only so-called ‘bad’ bacteria was ever talked about, so what has changed? This essay will address the facts about bacteria including methods used in identifying bacteria as well as looking at specific examples of how they can be both helpful and harmful to humans. So what are bacteria? In simple terms bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms lacking a nucleus and other organelles such as mitochondria and chloroplasts which are common place in eukaryotes. Bacteria are classified as prokaryotes and have been around for billions of years. Their minute size prevented them from being seen until 1683 when Antony van Leeuwenhoek invented a simple single-lens microscope though it wasn’t until much later, 1828 in fact that the word bacterium was invented by Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg.

Bacteria are very important in our society and the environment because they benefit us, as well as many other species. Some of the ways they benefit humans is through the production of certain foods. I.e cheese, yogurt, vinegar, wine, sour cream, etc. Bacteria can also be used in industry to clean up petroleum spills, to remove harmful waste products from the water, sewage treatment plants, and to synthesize drugs and chemicals. Bacteria feed on dying material and convert it back into basic substances. This process of decomposition is as significant as photosynthesis, for without it food chains would cease, and fallen trees, leaves, and other refuse would simply pile up. Bacteria also strongly influence the movement of key elements, such as sulfur, iron, phosphorus, and carbon, around the globe. The weathering of rocks, which releases elements back into life systems for use, is substantially enhanced by the breakdown processes...
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