Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, the smallest living creatures. There are many different varieties of these and some are beneficial in that they do good works for humanity and others are bad and cause disease. Among the many different groups are protozoa, algae, fungi, bacteria and viruses.
Among some of the diseases microbes cause is the relatively recent discovered flesh eating ebola disease, Mononucleosis, hepatitis, chickenpox, impetigo, lyme disease, measles, mumps, tuberculosis, meningococcal meningitis, olio, rabies, colds, salmonella and nearly all other diseases.
Protozoa are one-celled animals and are the smallest of the group. They are so small they can only be seen through a microscope. Their favorite environments are damp and wet areas that allow them to grow and to multiply by dividing themselves into half. Among this group are paramecium, euglena and ameba. These organisms live in water and in soil.
Amebic Keratitis is an eye disease affecting the cornea that was once rare but now since the prevalence of contacts, is being seen more often. It is caused by acanthamoeba, an ameba that lives in water. When contact lenses are not cleaned thoroughly and completely, there is a risk of being infected by this organism.
Another way polluted water contributes to disease is by contamination of our food supply. Farmed salmon is on the questionable list now and the alert notice is that it should be eaten only about once a month. It contains PCBs and could possibly contribute to cancer; the reason for not banning it completely is its heart healthy properties.
Algae are the lowest division of the plant kingdom. Pond scum and sea weed are among this group of microscopic plant organisms. They have no roots, no leaves and no stems but do take up chlorophyll and they live in fresh or sea water. They are beneficial since many of them such as kelp and Irish moss are in our food supply and are the makeup of some medicines.
Among this microscopic group of organisms are fungi, also known as yeast and molds. Some are beneficial and some are pathogenic, meaning they cause disease. Yeast infections are quite common.
Bacteria is a Greek word meaning rod. There are primarily three different types of this microorganism based on their shapes. Spherical or ovoid (round or oval shaped), Rod shaped and Spiral.
Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin. Microscopic organisms burrow underneath the skin and cause itching and pustules to form. It is highly contagious.
Lyme disease is relatively recent discovery that has as its causative agent a bacteria carried by deer ticks.
Tuberculosis is an air-born lung disease where the tubercle bacillus bacteria encases itself in little nodules on the lungs. It is contagious.
Meningococcus is the bacterial microorganism that causes meningitis, an inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord.
Salmonella, the food poisoning that one gets from undercooked chicken that harbors the bacteria, can be prevented if one cooks the chicken according to the packaging. Heat kills the bacterium.
Virus is a Latin word meaning poison. These tiniest of organism that lives within or on another organism for survival cause disease and destruction to the living matter they live on. They get their strength from their host and once obtaining this energy supply they replicate themselves. They have been known since 1967 and there are over 300 known variations.
The Ebola virus was found in the Congo River area (Zaire) in 1976 and many deaths have occurred. It is better known as the flesh-eating-virus’.
Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and is commonly known as the kissing disease”.
Hepatitis or inflammation of the liver is caused by either the Hepatitis A virus or Hepatitis B virus.
Chickenpox is caused by one form of the herpes virus. It is an especially virulent form of childhood disease that now can be controlled by immunization.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that manifests itself with elevated temperature and severe flu like symptoms and a day or two later the body breaks out into a red rash. These cover the entire body. A positive way of identification is finding white spots inside the mouth (Koplik’s spots). These appear before the rash. It is now controlled by immunizations.
Mumps, another childhood disease that is not often seen today because of immunization, once was a dreaded disease. The salivary glands become infected with a certain type of virus and the face becomes lopsided in appearance due to the swollen glands. In severe cases the pancreas, ovaries and testes can become involved.
Poliomyelitis is likewise caused by a virus and affects the brain and spinal cord.
Rabies, a viral infection by a dog bite that has the disease. This is where mad dog’ comes from.
Colds are nose and throat viral infections.