- Jordan Phillips
Microorganisms are essential to human existence on the planet
Microorganisms play a crucial role in human existence across a whole range of different aspects. The human body, both inside and out is covered in millions of microorganisms, which help to protect us from infection from harmful microbes (Microbiology, 17). They help to digest our food, have significant roles within the decomposition of waste, are involved in both carbon and nitrogen cycles, within the food industry, human digestive system, agricultural pest control and also genetics.
Microorganisms in the nitrogen cycle prove that these are not only beneficial for humans, but plants as well, including diazotrophs, which have developed a symbiotic relationship. An example of this is rhizobium present in nodules on legume roots, which through nitrogen fixation enables the plant to flourish within nitrogen deficient earth. Of the three stages of the nitrogen cycle, microorganisms are crucial, nitrosomonas and nitrosococcus convert ammonium ions into nitrate, then during nitrification, nitrobacter converts nitrate to nitrate in the first stage. Secondly denitrification occurs and pseudomonas denitrificans reduces nitrate into nitrogen gas. In the final stage nitrogen fixation occurs whereby diazotrophs reduce nitrogen from air into ammonia, which is then utilized by plants to synthesize DNA and amino acids (Biology, 1999). Mycorrhizal fungi also forms a symbiotic relationship with the root of a plant and enables fungal hyphae to increase surface area which allows the plant roots to take in and absorb more nutrients, which in turn benefits fungi as they gain essential sugars produced during photosynthesis (Le, 17).
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Within the carbon cycle microorganisms play a vital role, whereby autotrophic bacteria such as cyanobacteria synthesise organic molecules using CO² from the atmosphere, and is then used by other organisms which then release oxygen for human respiration. As microorganisms act as decomposers, they are vital components of the food chain, aiding in breaking down dead organisms and organic materials, and then releasing minerals for uptake by living organisms and releasing CO² back into the atmosphere to then be consumed by photosynthetic organisms (khan, 17). Methanogens influence the carbon cycle by converting CO² to methane, then releasing it into the atmosphere increasing methane concentration, and in contrast methanotrophs consume methane from the atmosphere which in turn leads to a decrease of greenhouse gas and global warming (edu, 2017)
In the food industry, especially in the production of dairy products microorganisms are extremely beneficial to humans. Lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophiles convert lactose from milk into lactic acid, which then causes milk to coagulate during fermentation, forming yoghurt. Probiotic yoghurt is now widely sold to help maintain the balance of microbial flora and prevent the growth of pathogens within our gut. Microbes like yeast which aid the process of baking bread, brewing alcohol and food preservation are also a mainstay within our diet (Hofkin, 2010). Fusarium graminearum, which is a type of fungus has been developed into a meat substitute which is used in daily diets worldwide (Botany, 2017). The fermentation of milk due to lactic acid bacteria causes milk to coagulate and form a curd, and additional organisms are then added to form various types of cheese, for example penicillium camaberti is added to produce camembert (Hofkin, 2010).
The human digestive system includes many different forms of friendly bacteria which are vital in terms of the metabolism of food, the production of enzymes and vitamins to help aid digestion, for example ß-galactosidase, amylase. They also help in getting rid of disease causing microorganisms and the regulation of intestinal acidity. None pathogenic bacteria like lactobacillus form symbiotic relationships with most multicellular organisms which are essential to the maintenance of human health by ensuring any pathogenic bacteria is prevented from growing and aids in our immune system at the same time. Microorganisms which exist in ruminant’s digestive systems are used as a source of amino acids, but also help to break down cellulose into monosaccharaides, releasing useable energy (Vet, 17).
In agricultural pest control, bacillus thuringiensis produce BT-toxin, with is lethal to insects upon ingestion, but non-pathogenic to humans and animals. This toxin is genetically engineered into crops to increase yield. Certain viruses are also microbial bio pesticides and baculovriruses, which can specifically target caterpillars by releasing nucleosaspids which ultimately causes death upon ingestion. Overall microorganisms are highly efficient within pest control without any huge environmental side effects (Insa, 17)
Upon further study of microbes genetics, it has enabled us to develop uses within genetic engineering, for instance gene cloning and has created huge benefits within the biotechnological industry. Microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and bacteriophages act as cloning vectors to transfer a specific sequence of gene into the plasmid of a bacterial cell by using restriction enzymes, which purpose is to bind to the inverted palindrome within both the chromosomal and vector DNA, which cleaves the DNA and produces sticky ends. These are the joined together by DNA ligase and forming a recombinant DNA which is then used to transform the bacteria host cell and can then be induced to produce protein which certain genes encode as the vector is replicated and divided ultimately producing new cells. Proteins from recombinant technology can be used to manufacture medicines, synthetic vaccines, amongst other vital substances like insulin. The application of microorganisms within the medical industry is hugely beneficial to human health (Hofkin, 2010)
(17, 02 05). Retrieved from Microbiology: http://microbiologyonline.org/about-microbiology/microbes-and-the-human-body
(17, 02 05). Retrieved from khan: https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/ecology/biogeochemical-cycles/a/the-carbon-cycle
(17, 02 06). Retrieved from Vet: http://www.vet.ed.ac.uk/clive/cal/RUMENCAL/Frames/frmRumen.html
(17, 02 06). Retrieved from Insa: http://insa.nic.in/writereaddata/UpLoadedFiles/PINSA/Vol80_2014_2_Art27.pdf
(2017, 02 05). Retrieved from edu: http://www.vet.ed.ac.uk/clive/cal/rumencal/Info/infMeth.html
(2017, 02 05). Retrieved from Botany: http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/aug2005.html
Biology. (1999). Benjamin Cummings.
Hofkin, B. (2010). Living in a microbial world. New mexico: Garland.
Le. (17, 02 05). Retrieved from https://www.le.ac.uk/se/centres/sci/selfstudy/eco7.htm
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