Bacteria is a term that, when it comes to the picture, brings a negative connotation; however, that is not the case at all times. Undoubtedly, bacteria are pathogenic and harmful microbes, but not all of them are threatening. Most of the bacteria are harmless and beneficial; some of them are so vital that life on Earth would not be possible in their absence.
If you have read about food chains, you will notice the importance of decomposers. Bacteria degrade dead plants and animals and nourish the soil by bringing back essential nutrients. Some of the bacterial species also cleanse pollutants out of the environment through bioremediation.
In this article, we will learn about some positive aspects of having bacteria around us and how they benefit us.
Bacteria in the human body
There are several bacteria in the human body that are vital for survival. Bacteria present in the gut – the digestive system – disintegrate nutrients such as complex sugars into usable forms in the body. The non-pathogenic bacteria in the body can help in disease prevention by inhabiting areas that pathogenic bacteria would want for attachment. A few bacteria help us from the attack of pathogenic bacteria.
Bacteria in ecosystem
Bacteria are involved in a range of vital soil processes contributing to the carbon, phosphorus and nitrogen cycle. They participate in the decomposition of dead plant and animal matter. By this decomposition, they contribute to enhancing the soil structure.
Bacteria in research and industries
Bacteria are capable of disintegrating organic compounds, which are beneficial for activities like clearing up soil spills and waste processing. Several chemical industries and pharmaceuticals use bacteria to produce some chemicals.
They also find application in biochemistry, molecular biology (such as E.coli) and genetic research, as they can multiply quickly and are comparatively easier to manipulate. Bacteria are used to make antibiotics too. Antibiotics are chemicals inhibiting the growth of bacteria; they are used in treating bacterial infections and are produced by fungi and soil bacteria.
Researchers make use of bacteria in studying the working mechanism of enzymes and genes.
Bacteria in nitrogen fixation
Bacteria are involved in nitrogen fixation. Nitrogen present in the air is not in the form which can be consumed by plants directly; plants cannot directly make use of the atmospheric nitrogen. Free nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into ammonia by nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This way, bacteria provide nitrogen to the host for its growth. In exchange, plants provide sugars from photosynthesis which is used by the microbe for the energy it requires to fix nitrogen.
Bacteria in food technology
Bacteria are vital in the food industry. Lactobacillus bacteria with molds and yeasts or even fungi are used in the preparation of soy sauce, cheese, pickles, yoghurt etc. Fermented food sources contain different types of bacteria, which are the same as those associated with gastrointestinal health.
Bacteria used as Biosensors
With the increase in population, the quantity of waste generated also is increasing and is directly being released into the environment. The traditional analyses to find and locate toxic substances are usually inaccurate and high-priced. Hence, researchers came up with biosensors which are nothing but genetically modified bacteria which can locate pollutants.
These biosensors do not demand any costly apparatus or chemicals and operate at a much faster pace – in minutes. Several bacteria even give out light when they confront a toxic substance.
Hope you found this article on the benefits of bacteria informative. Explore more such articles on bacteria and other microbes and understand how they bring about a balance in our ecosystem.