Why study microbiology? 5 key reasons

Not everything we see is what it is. We are surrounded by a whole world of microorganisms which are not visible to the naked eye and which influence the most basic aspects of our existence.

Microbes play an important role in creating the world as we know it: They participate in phenomena such as the cycles of obtaining substances, the decomposition of organic matter, or the digestion of food.

They also have a negative side: the existence of pathogens. Although their proportion is much lower than the benefits they bring us, they have always had a fundamental impact on history.

For all this, it is not surprising that the scientific community has wanted to study them for centuries, to understand what we cannot see. And that’s where microbiology was born.

In this article we will look at several reasons to study microbiology as an academic career.

    Why study microbiology? 5 important advantages

    By microorganism we mean any unicellular organism or cell-free entity (such as prions or viruses) that we cannot see with the naked eye, because anything less than 1 millimeter in diameter is difficult to see with the eyes. . This science is responsible for the study of prions, viruses, bacteria, archaeobacteria, protozoa, fungi and algae. It should be mentioned that the latter two also have larger limbs and can be observed with our eyes, studied in other branches (botany, in this case).

    Many people associate microorganisms with germs that cause disease in humans and affect health, but the truth is that most of them benefit our bodies and they are even used to make food products, such as cheese, yogurt or daily bread. Without his study, we would never have produced the antibiotics or vaccines that have been used to improve our health today.

    like that, there are many reasons to study microbiology, A science which is linked to many others (now medicine or ecology) and which has its uses for many aspects of life.

    1. The need for medical progress

    It is clear that the study of microbes has been essential in understanding, among other things, what pathogens are and what are their mechanisms that cause disease in humans. There are millions of microorganisms, and although only a hundred or so are capable of harming us, more research is still needed to find cures for many of them that still have no cure or way to recover. prevent them medically.

    Except that, in the field of medicine, the other side of germs has also been studied, that is, their health benefits.. We now know that we have an intestinal flora that helps us digest certain foods or obtain certain components, such as vitamin K.

    Even more important was the discovery of antibiotics produced by certain species of bacteria and fungi. It is proteins whose function is to attack and eliminate other bacteria by various mechanisms, For example not allowing the cell wall to be generated, which greatly weakens the bacteria. The bad thing is that its mass use has succeeded in selecting bacteria, generating offspring of pathogens resistant to these drugs, so the synthesis and discovery of new emedios is an essential task.

    It can also be added that the study of microbiology can be used for the search for new vaccines against pathogens. After all, a vaccine is a preventative element that serves to promote the proliferation of antibodies, a defense element created by our body to react earlier and better against the pathogen. So, if we are infected with the germ in question, we already have the proper defense for a quick attack.

      2. Its application to the food and chemical industry

      Another aspect that you may be interested in studying microbiology is have the ability to control certain processes in the food industry, Such as fermentation. This is the activity of microorganisms when they transform organic matter into simpler matter. In the production of some commercial products has a lot of interest: cheese, yogurt or beer can not exist without such procedures. The control of fermentation inside large tanks or bioreactors is of vital importance to guarantee the quality of the final product.

      But this is not the only area of ​​utility in food processing. Another important aspect of this industry is the production of amino acids, an essential component of proteins., To be used as additives. For example, we rely on glutamic acid to generate monosodium glutamate (MSG) flavor enhancer; or aspartic acid, to form the sweetener aspartame, or the vitamin preparation as a supplement (eg, B12). Also note the production of citric acid, a product with multiple uses: antioxidant, pH regulator, aroma, etc. as well as

      Not only does the food industry profit from the existence of these microorganisms. In the chemical industry, they are used as components of household and clothing cleaning products, such as detergents, enzymes produced on a large scale by fungi and bacteria. These are proteins that break down other components, such as proteases (break down proteins), amylases (starch) or lipases (fats).

      3. Its application to microbial biotechnology

      This is one of the areas of work in the professional career of the microbiologist that has developed the most in recent years. Biotechnology is the technological application of the use of living organisms or their products. In this context, a large part uses microorganisms to make their processes work.

      One of its main goals is to transform a bacterium by inoculating genes of interest into its genome so that they can then be expressed. With an example, it will be clearer: the case of insulin production.

      As we know, people with diabetes often need to inject insulin because their body does not have it for various reasons. Although previously insulin produced by pigs was used, which was very similar to that of humans, today human insulin can be purified by producing it through colonies (groups) of bacteria. These microorganisms have been introduced into the human insulin gene, and are therefore able to transcribe the protein and produce it. This method of producing GMOs is used with countless genes.

      Another reason of interest for the study of microbiology, also linked to biotechnology, is the development of biosensors. Living microorganisms are bound to electrons, and the chemical reactions they perform can be detected by electrical impulses. This makes it possible to detect components in food, for example: the presence of glucose, toxins or pathogens, etc. A good method of food safety and water control.

      4. For its potential in terms of sustainability

      With increasing demand for a more sustainable system, microorganisms are gaining in importance. The use of biopesticides helps to create greener crops, using bacteria, viruses and fungi or their components to control pest insects that attack crops. is a way to avoid the use of synthetic chemicals and potentially toxic to a wide variety of life forms.

      Another reason related to sustainability is the possibility of obtaining alternative energies, such as the production of ethanol (an 85% ethanol fuel was used for cars) or methane, which comes from the decomposition of waste. organic matter. Synthesis of biopolymers to replace polymers petroleum derivatives, that is to say plastics, is also a growing trend.

      5. By knowledge

      The truth is, the most important reason to study microbiology, like anything, is to have an intellectual interest in it. In this science you have to arouse curiosity the idea of ​​knowing the world that we do not see, all these small organisms escaping our gaze. You want to know how they interact with each other and with the environment.

      In short, this academic and professional trajectory is very interesting for knowing the mechanisms of life, because as said at the beginning, microbes are everywhere, and many perform essential tasks for this. It is fascinating to see how such a small thing is so important that after so many years of Earth history, they continue to carry out their vital tasks on this planet.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Tortora GJ, Funke B. and Casi C. (2007). “Introduction to microbiology” (9th ed.). Pan-American Editorial.
      • Murray P., Rosenthal K. and Pfaller M. (2013). “Medical Microbiology” (7th ed.). Editorial Elsevier Saunder.
      • Prescott L., Harley J. and Klein D. (2002). “Microbiology” (5th ed.). McGraw Hill Publishing.
      • Thieman W. and Palladino M. (2010). “Introduction to biotechnology” (2nd ed.). Pearson Publishing.
      • Madigan M., Martinko J. and Parker J. (2003). “Brock, Biology of Microorganisms” (10th ed.). Pearson Publishing.

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