29 Jun 2011


Bacteria are both dangerous and helpful to the environment, and animals, including humans. The role of bacteria in disease and infection is important. Some bacteria act as pathogens and cause tetanus, typhoid fever, pneumonia, syphilis, cholera, food-born illness, leprosy, and tuberculosis (TB). Sepsis, a systemic infectious syndrome characterized by shock and massive vasodilatation, or localized infection, can be caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, or many gram-negative bacteria. Some bacterial infections can spread throughout the host's body and become systemic. In plants, bacteria cause leaf spot, fire blight, and wilts. The mode of infection includes contact, air, food, water, and insect-borne microorganisms. The hosts infected with the pathogens may be treated with antibiotics, which can be classified as bacteriocidal and bacteriostatic, which at concentrations that can be reached in bodily fluids either kill bacteria or hamper their growth, respectively. Antiseptic measures may be taken to prevent infection by bacteria, for example, by swabbing skin with alcohol prior to piercing the skin with the needle of a syringe. Sterilization of surgical and dental instruments is done to make them sterile or pathogen-free to prevent contamination and infection by bacteria. Sanitizers and disinfectants are used to kill bacteria or other pathogens to prevent contamination and risk of infection.
In soil, microorganisms which reside in the rhizosphere (a zone that includes the root surface and the soil that adheres to the root after gentle shaking) help in the transformation of molecular dinitrogen gas as their source of nitrogen, converting it to nitrogenous compounds in a process known as nitrogen fixation. This serves to provide an easily absorbable form of nitrogen for many plants, which cannot fix nitrogen themselves. Many other bacteria are found as symbionts in humans and other organisms. For example, the presence of the gut flora in the large intestine can help prevent the growth of potentially harmful microbes.
The ability of bacteria to degrade a variety of organic compounds is remarkable. Highly specialized groups of microorganisms play important roles in the mineralization of specific classes of organic compounds. For example, the decomposition of cellulose, which is one of the most abundant constituents of plant tissues, is mainly brought about by aerobic bacteria that belong to the genus Cytophaga. This ability has also been utilized by humans in industry, waste processing, and bioremediation. Bacteria capable of digesting the hydrocarbons in petroleum are often used to clean up oil spills. Some beaches in Prince William Sound were fertilized in an attempt to facilitate the growth of such bacteria after the infamous 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. These efforts were effective on beaches that were not too thickly covered in oil.
Bacteria, often in combination with yeasts and molds, are used in the preparation of fermented foods such as cheese, pickles, soy sauce, sauerkraut, vinegar, wine, and yogurt. Using biotechnology techniques, bacteria can be bioengineered for the production of therapeutic drugs, such as insulin, or for the bioremediation of toxic wastes.

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