We explain what a microorganism is, its characteristics and classification. In addition, beneficial and harmful microorganisms.
What is a microorganism?
Microorganisms are those organisms that, due to their small size, are imperceptible to the eye .
Also called microbios, these organisms have a very basic biological organization : an important proportion of them have only a single c lula. In addition, they are characterized by numerous varieties, of different shapes and sizes.
Unicellular prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms, together with certain fungi and algae make up the universe of microbes.
See also: Microbiology.
Characteristics of microorganisms
Microorganisms have a number of characteristics in common:
- Their size is so small that they are imperceptible to the naked eye.
- Your metabolic reactions are very fast.
- The relationship they have with the environment is intense.
- They need water to metabolize.
- They develop dispersion and resistance mechanisms.
- They have the ability to alter the environment in which they are found.
- They reproduce at high speed.
- Its activity is indispensable for life on the planet.
- They are part of the biogeochemical cycles that are carried out in nature.
- They are very light, so they are transported in the air.
Types of microorganisms
Within nature, different types of microorganisms can be identified. Some of them are the following:
- Virus. They are the most basic microbes and can only be perceived with electron microscopes. To reproduce, they must infect other unicellular organisms, which are inoculated with their genetic content (they can only reproduce in a host cell).
- Cyanophyly seaweed. These are large bacteria and are characterized by photosynthesis in a very similar way to plants, that is, oxygenic (they give off oxygen).
- Mushrooms. Just like yeast, many of the organisms that make up the Fungi Kingdom are microscopic.
- Protists These are eukaryotic single-celled microbes of great volume. They usually develop in aquatic environments, which can be fresh or salt water, or in very humid places. Although some varieties develop parasitic lives, in general, these organisms prey on other microorganisms when feeding.
- Arches and bacteria. These are two types of prokaryotic and unicellular organisms, and they are the simplest microbes. They make up the group of microbes with the greatest presence on Earth, they feed on the habitat they are in and their reproduction is based on the division of their genetic material.
Harmful and beneficial microorganisms
There are microorganisms that are harmful to people's health, because by attacking vital cells, they can cause diseases that, in some cases, can lead to death. Some of these microbes are the following:
- Bacteria They are microorganisms that belong to the Monera Kingdom, release toxins and can survive inside or outside a cell. In addition, they are unicellular and lack a nucleus. Not all bacteria are pathogenic, but some can be beneficial for health or neutral.
- Virus. These microbes, which have a spiral or spherical shape, can only be reproduced within a host cell. These microbes, which can be infectious, have a unique type of nucleic acid, and are always pathogenic. Viruses can never be eliminated with antibiotics and only their symptoms can be attacked.
- Mushrooms. These microbes can generate infectious diseases and develop outside the bodies.
Within the microorganisms there are also varieties that are beneficial for life, the environment and the health of the human being. Here are some examples where microbes intervene beneficially:
- Food industry. Microbes play a fundamental role in the production of certain products. For example, yogurt, cheese or beer are the result of fermented foods, thanks to the action of microbes. In these cases, microbes produce lactic acid that facilitates food preservation.
- Body. There are microorganisms that participate in certain processes within the human body, such as in digestion and even act in defense of other organisms that can affect health.
- Trash. Through certain biological processes such as stabilization or decomposition, the microbes clean the waste. They end up converting waste into humus or compost.
- Farming. Many of the microorganisms that inhabit the soil facilitate agricultural production. Either because they act as pesticides or because they help plant growth.
Examples of microorganisms
Some of the most known and studied microorganisms, which can cause diseases, are the following:
- Escherichia coli. They are the microbes that cause diseases such as hemorrhagic diarrhea or kidney failure. They inhabit the intestines.
- Salmonella These microorganisms cause various diseases. A good part of them are diarrheal. It spreads through urine and feces.
- Streptococcus pneumoniae. They are the microbes that cause diseases such as pneumonia, sinusitis or otitis, as well as meningitis.
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In general, they affect the functioning of the liver and lung, but have the ability to make any organ in the body sick. They are very cold-resistant microbes.
- Yersinia pestis. This microbe, which can cause plague, lives in rodents, although it is transmitted through fleas.
- Bacillus cereus. This microorganism causes poisoning, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. Inhabits food and is characterized by reproducing very easily.
- Treponema pallidum. This microorganism is fought with penicillin and is characterized by not surviving outside the body. In addition, this microbe causes the sexually transmitted disease called syphilis.