A Study on the Kingdom of Bacteria


Bacteria can be found just about anywhere in the world today. Bacteria are important in many of the life processes including disease and antibiotic production. (Society for General Microbiology 2011). There are bacteria in the bathroom, in the kitchen, in the soil, and in your body. Flannery (2010) stated, "the term bacteria was to refer to all prokaryotes, until the 1970s, when Carl Woese discovered that some bacteria were so genetically different from others that they really represent a different category of life, which he called Achaea." Achaea is now a separate kingdom due to their lifestyle in extreme environments (Flannery 2010). People study in-depth the way bacterium works, the similarities, and differences between them. The study of bacteria is bacteriology. Some bacteria are good in ways by keeping our digestive system healthy and bad by causing diseases in the body such as botulism and tetanus. Bacteria have the ability to change inorganic materials by chemical energy to make organic matter which is called chemosynthesis (Rainis 1996:43). Also, in nature bacteria are used in the nitrogen cycle. Nitrogen fixing bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen to nitrogen compounds that are able to be used by other organisms. Some can be used in some sort of industrial process like the food industry and genetic engineering (The Diagram Group 2000:85).

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The cells of bacteria are simple compared to plants and animals. Bacteria cells lack complex organelles like chloroplasts and mitochondria. Bacteria also do not have a well defined nucleus. Bacteria can come in different shapes. These shapes include: cocci or spherical shaped, bacilli or rod shaped, spirals or helical, and filaments. Reproduction of bacteria is by dividing and transformation. Bacteria reproduction is very rapid due to dividing about every twenty minutes (Hine 1999:36). Reproduction in bacteria is understood to being a main part in the sexual reproduction in eukaryotes. Transformation in bacteria was the beginning of meiotic recombination in eukaryotes. The evolution of sex started with the continuing through the eukaryotes. Bacteria uses transformation and meiosis in a specific and decision based sexual procedure (Bernstein, Bernstein 2010:498-499). There is a compound called bacteriostatic that does not kill bacteria but prevents them from reproducing. This could be helpful in fighting any sort of bacterial disease. Bacteria can form a resistance to spores as well (Hine 1999:36). Biotechnology is used to make medicine such as penicillium and streptomycin from bacteria. This helps fight many bacterial viruses (Hine 1999:36).

As stated earlier some bacteria can cause infections in the body. Attaching to the host is a very important step for bacteria to cause these infections. Some infectious bacteria have hair-like appendages on the surface known as pili or fimbriae. These hair-like appendages allow the bacteria to attach to its host. This is very common in the urinary tract. Pili in bacteria have been known to also deal with DNA transfer as well as host cell invasion. Pili in Gram negative bacteria have been studied for many years and just recently have been studying pili in Gram positive. According to Proft and Baker (2009), "Gram negative bacteria was first discovered around the 1940's." The Gram negative bacteria E. Coli is very commonly associated with the infections within the bladder and the urinary tract. The bacteria use the pili to attach to the walls of the bladder or urinary tract so they will not become washed away. Today if someone has this infection they go to the doctor and receive a prescription for an antibiotic to cure it. Pili has been discovered in Gram positive bacteria such as Enterococcus, Clostridia, and several species of Streptococcus. As stated by Proft and Baker (2009), "pili in pathogenic streptococci appear long, flexible rod protruding out of the cell surface." These pili in Gram positive cells also help with attachment to the peptydoglycan by adhesions and sortase. This allows the bacteria to infect the host until antibiotics are received.

Antibiotics are given to people when they are infected with bacteria. Antibiotics are slowly losing their function due the drug resistance that bacteria is forming. Bacteria are being exposed to antibiotics that are not completely killing them off and this is happening because of the abuse of antibiotics. A development of a different alternative to antibiotics, for every single bacterial infection will decrease the likelihood of more resistant bacteria (American Medical Association). Mutations of these resistance genes are being spread to bacteria by a horizontal transfer. As these bacteria reproduce they are passing on this gene which is causing more resistance to antibiotics. Davidson and Surette (2008) explained that "Staphylococcus aureus with penicillin resulted in rapid killing of the majority of cells but a small number of cells remained that showed a prolonged survival in the presence of the antibiotic." The bacteria that survived was grown and exposed again to penicillin. Most of the bacteria was killed with still some survivors (Davidson, Surette 2008). The spread of multi drug resistance is through exposure. Patients who require hemodialysis are at the highest rates of promoting antibiotic resistance. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA and Vancomycin- resistant enterococci or VRE are common bacteria to infect those on hemodialysis. As of right now there is no antibiotic to cure these infectious bacteria (Pop-Vicas et al. 2008). According to Shnayerson and Plotkin (2002), MRSA stays drug resistant because, "the mecA gene passes from strain to strain, and species to species, conferring multidrug resistance as it went" (42). Before MRSA and VRE were completely drug resistant, to fight the bacteria off, one antibiotic was given and when that did not work another was given to the patient (Shnayerson, Plotkin 2002:42).

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As more and more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, it is now harder to find new antibiotics to compete with them. Bacteria being exposed to antibiotics are the main reason why they are becoming resistant and patients with prescriptions from their doctors are exposing the bacteria by not finishing the prescription. Many people do not like to take medicines and when they have to they take it until they feel better. Even so, people today like to reuse prescriptions or even share them which expose the bacteria and may not even fight against it. According to Interlandi (2010), "The Center for Disease control estimates as much as 50 percent of all antibiotic uses is unnecessary." Doctors are just prescribing these antibiotics to make the patients happy. They are not feeling well, they just want the pills. Doctors even prescribe antibiotics as a precaution to an infection that may occur. In the past, doctors would prescribe a handful of antibiotics to treat some infections in hope that one will cure it. As the resistance of bacteria builds against antibiotics, it will cause the cost of antibiotics to go up in price although they will do less to the infection (Interlandi 2010). An article in the American Society of Medicine believes they have solved the problem to antibiotic resistance by using bacteriophages. Bacteriophages are viruses that kill off bacteria. These bacteriophages are known to be the new green antibacterial application. There is still research being conducted and they are waiting for the Food and Drug Administration or FDA to approve this method. (American Society of Medicine 2010). In conclusion to antibacterial resistance, as stated by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, doctors must be extremely cautious with antibiotic prescription. If antibiotics are only prescribed when needed, then the bacteria will not be exposed to become antibiotic resistant (Infectious Diseases Society of America 2011).

Bacteria are also becoming resistant to disinfectants. Disinfectants prohibit bacterial growth but may not be as effective when the bacteria are sticking on a hard surface. They are then exposed to the disinfectant causing them to come up with a resistance. Salmonella species needed about five to ten minutes with the chemical Poul-phene to inhibit the growth but not completely kill off the bacteria. Disinfectants that are not used while following the directions can allow the bacteria to develop resistance. This is important in the food industry due to the common food poisoning infections caused by bacteria such as Salmonella. (Sander et al. 2011). Salmonella is the most common bacteria to cause a food borne illness with the consumption of contaminated mean or eggs. The meat or eggs carries the bacteria because of proper handling of the item. Because of the lack of precaution, food poisoning occurs (Borie et al. 2008: 64).

Food poisoning is an illness that occurs when food is not properly cooked or not properly handled. If food is not properly cleaned the bacteria will live on the specific food. When someone eats an infected food, the person cannot taste or smell the bacteria. Bacteria that cause food poisoning include Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli (Nestle 2003:27). Campylobacter jejuni is the bacteria that live in animal's intestines. When preparing the food, bacteria can be transferred to hands, and then the hands touch the mouth directly or through the improperly cooked food. Patients with this type of food poisoning usually have a fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea for as short as one day to as long as a week (Hart 2004:135). The Food and Drug Administration or FDA offers ways to stay safe with foods such as fruits and vegetables, milk, as well as safety measures to working with poultry. Any food that has been recalled due to a Salmonella outbreak will be on the FDA website. The FDA wants everyone to stay healthy with regards to food (Food and Drug Administration 2011). There are ways to fight bacteria by washing hands and surfaces often, separate foods so there is no cross contamination, refrigerate often, and cook at proper temperatures (Hart 2004:119).

Bacteria are not always evil when dealing with food. Some bacteria help by adding flavor or taste to the food. Most cheeses are made by using Gram positive bacteria. These bacteria can also help when telling us milk has spoiled by the smell and distinct taste. Bacteria also aids in making the adult beverage that people drink when out at sporting events, beer. Beers sitting in the barrels that are full of bacteria are obtaining specific flavor, depending on the brand, over the years (Dryer 2003:168-173).

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Bacteria are a changing kingdom. They help aid in the production of antibiotics. If overly exposed the bacteria can become resistant and cause more problems to the world with fighting disease. Bacteriophages are being studied now as a new fighter against bacterial infections. Food and bacteria can be a positive or negative aspect in life. If the bacteria are used to make new flavors of beer or certain cheeses it is used positively. Although, if bacteria are not cleaned off of food properly, cross contaminated, not properly cooked, or not properly refrigerated, the bacteria will call a food illness such as food poisoning. Bacteria are used in everyday life. Without it humans would not be able to live.