The Scary Truth: Microbes

Bailey Brown


To begin this chapter on the importance of hand washing to prevent the spread of infection, we will first conduct an experiment just to see how easily bacteria on our hands are spread. What are microbes? They are microscopic organisms that are too small to be seen with the naked eye; therefor we must study them with a microscope. They are found in the water, soil, air, the human body, and other surfaces. The most common are bacteria, viruses, and fungi [1]. 

Bacteria are single-celled prokaryotic organisms. The do not have a nuclear membrane, mitochondria, Golgi bodies, or endoplasmic reticulum. Bacteria require different environments to be able to survive. Some prefer warm and moist environments while others prefer cool and dry environments. If bacteria are not supplemented with their optimal growth environment, reproduction will slow down and the cells may eventually die if conditions are harsh. Some pathogens have modifications that make them survive through harsh conditions, which makes it more difficult to treat when an individual becomes infected. Most bacteria are harmless, but there are some bacteria that cause infections such as the common cold, tuberculosis, tonsillitis, and diarrhea. In fact, we would not survive without bacteria because they are necessary to carry out our daily functions, which will later be discussed.

Viruses are not living cells—they are actually made up of proteins that invade and infect other healthy cells and begin to reproduce, causing diseases. The cells that the virus invades are known as host cells. Without hosts, the virus would not be able to reproduce and survive. A common virus that we all know and hate is the flu virus, known as influenza.

Fungi are eukaryotic organisms that can be unicellular or multi-cellular. Fungi are similar to bacteria. Some are naturally found on the skin and are beneficial to our health, while others can be harmful. Edible forms of fungi include mushrooms and yeast. Harmful forms of fungi cause infections such as athlete’s foot and inflammation of organs [1]. However, without the help of mold, a form of fungi, penicillin would not have been discovered [1].


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