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Bacterial Infections & Structured Silver

What Are Bacteria?

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Bacteria are microorganisms that are too small to see with the naked eye that exist in virtually every environment in the world. They exist in dirt, water, caves, hot springs, organic materials like fallen trees and dead animals, and inside the bodies of virtually every living animal on earth.

Are Bacteria “Germs”?

Many people, when regarding bacteria, lump them all together as “germs” and don’t think much more about bacteria than the fact that germs can cause disease.

It is true that there are a wide range of pathogenic, or disease-causing, bacteria. They come in all manner of shapes, from spiral-shaped to rod-shaped to spherical. Some pathogenic bacteria can cause a host of very serious diseases, including pneumonia, meningitis, and plague, and some scientists believe that certain types of bacteria can even contribute to the development of cancer. Many sexually transmitted diseases are caused by bacteria, and super-resistant bacterial strains are increasingly in the news.

But fortunately, not all bacteria are harmful. A number of the bacteria found in the human body have positive benefits for their host. They can help strengthen the immune system, help digest food, secrete hormones and chemicals and vitamins that benefit the health of the human body, and help regulate human metabolism. Some bacteria also fight off harmful bacteria, helping to prevent illness.

Bacteria are also used to help clean up oil spills, keep sewage systems under control, and many other applications. Without bacteria, there would be no yogurt or cheese, and great strides are being made in biotechnology by studying the structure and makeup of bacteria.

Facts About Bacteria

Bacteria are microscopic organisms that have been on Earth for hundreds of millions of years, and are found in or on all living organisms. Bacteria are adaptable, surviving in rough terrain, deep bodies of water, scorching deserts, in the arctic permafrost, and even in the atmosphere.

Bacteria are most often associated with pathogens and disease, but they can be beneficial to the human body. In babies, for example, bacteria found in breast milk can aid in fighting off diseases. In adult bodies, bacteria in the gut can maintain the body’s healthy digestion and immune systems. Bacteria is also used to preserve foods, enhance soil for crops, to make cheese and yogurt, and to eradicate solid waste.

However, for as much good as some bacteria do, others can be harmful or fatal. Contagious diseases, like the common cold or the flu, are spread from bacteria when a person coughs or sneezes. Should a person not wash their hands properly after using the bathroom, they can infect themselves and others with E. coli bacteria.

Bacteria are multifaceted organisms that are among some of the oldest on Earth. They can be found in every environment, and can be both helpful and harmful to humanity.

The Reproduction of Bacteria

Bacteria reproduction is fast in a conducive environment, and is achieved through both asexual and sexual means. Asexual reproduction takes place with only one cell without a partner involved. There is no exchange of genetic material.

The asexual process, also known as binary fission, normally begins with the enlargement of the bacterial cell. The DNA material then divides into two equal portions and separates. A cell membrane surrounds each portion of genetic material. Once surrounded by the membrane, the cell wall curves in across the separated entities and divides the cell into two genetically identical cells.

The other method of reproduction is called conjugation. The bacterial cells do not divide as they do with binary fission, but their genetic material is altered through mixing – via contact of two compatible cells that are opposite matches. This is achieved through contact of the involved cells via a pilus, which is carried by the donor cell and contains the replicated DNA.

The pilus connects the two cells, the donor and the recipient, and provides a channel of exchange of the genetic material. The donor donates a portion of the replicated DNA. Both cells eventually end up with replicated DNA, able to induce conjugation in other cells that are oppositely compatible (without the replicated DNA). Conjugation is a means of transfer of antibiotic resistance between bacteria, which is advantageous to the bacteria’s survival.

Bacteria Cell Walls

A bacteria cell wall can vary in composition. Certain cell walls may be more permeable than others. The cell wall can serve as a resistant barrier to some particles and other cells. A cell wall gives a bacterial cell its defining shape, and is sandwiched between the bacteria’s capsule and the plasma membrane. The capsule of the bacteria is structured from polysaccharide and helps in blocking the process of phagocytosis. There are also bacteria cells without walls, and therefore no decided shape, known as mycoplasma.

If a bacteria is gram negative, the cell wall is thinner, with another layer structured between the capsule and the plasma membrane. This outer membrane contains lipopolysaccharide, which turns on the immune system of the cell.

The cell wall of a bacterium is composed of peptidoglycan. The plasma membrane present in some bacteria – found lying over the cell wall of gram positive cells and over the periplasmic space of gram negative cells – is a lipid layer. Within this lipid layer, many protein cells move around transporting ions, nutrients, or waste materials to their desired destinations. Gram positive bacteria will have a thicker layer of peptidoglycan than gram negative bacteria.

Bacterial DNA

Bacterial DNA resembles human DNA in that they are both double-helical. There is a difference, however: the bacteria’s DNA is formed of plasmids, which would be circular in their double stranded DNA composition (where human DNA holds a linear form).

The DNA’s transcription encoding includes the sequence information needed for a particular cell, as well as the regulating information that will serve to direct the proteins’ synthesis. A transcription will always encode at least one gene. DNA replication occurs in every living organism. DNA replication is the process at which a bacteria or any organism copies their own DNA.

DNA replications can even be accomplished outside of the given cell by using artificial synthesis or the polymerase chain reaction laboratory method. Many interesting things have been discovered about different bacterium and their DNA. It has even been discovered that there are bacteria with DNA maps that can produce arsenic.

Shapes of Bacteria

Bacteria are almost always single celled, prokaryotic microscopic organisms. They are typically much smaller than eukaryotic cells because they lack lots of distinct organelles, such as nuclei. There are three main shapes of bacteria: bacillus, coccus, and spiral.

Bacillus, or rod shaped bacteria, are typically 0.5 to 1.0 micrometer in width, and from 1.0 to 4.0 micrometers in length. Examples of bacilli include Bacillus anthracis and E. coli. This shape of bacteria can also form long chains called streptobacillus. Another form is called coccobacillus, describing bacteria whose shape is somewhere between the coccus and the bacillus.

Cocci are spherically shaped bacteria that organize in several distinct arrangements when in groups: diplococcus, tetrad, sarcina, and staphylococcus arrangements. The diplococcus arrangement is characterized by cell division along one plane, where the bacteria will appear to form chains. Division along two planes yields a tetrad arrangement, characterized by squares of four bacteria. Division along three planes yields a sarcina arrangement, which is a cube made up of eight cells.

The last recognized form of bacteria is known as the spiral, which occurs in three distinct sub-forms. The first is a vibrio, in which cells are characterized by a comma shaped rod. The second sub-form is a spirillium, a cell that forms a thick, stiff spiral. The last sub-form is a spirochete, which is very closely related to the spirillium, but typically the spiral form is thinner and more flexible. The spiral form can be rather large relative to the others, ranging in size from 1.0 micrometer to over 100 micrometers.

Some exceptions include filament strains, star shapes, square shapes, and even some more complex arrangements. Some have even been termed pleomorphic, meaning they are actually variable in shape.

Common Bacteria

Bacteria can live in an astonishing number of environments, including water, rotting leaf litter, fallen trees, dead animals, hot springs, in caves, and in the bodies of living animals, including humans. Some of these bacteria are useful to the development of medications and vaccines.

Others help us manage septic systems, clean up oil spills, or make cheese, yogurt, and wine. The bacteria living in the human body can be beneficial to our immune systems, preventing allergies. Others protect against more harmful bacteria. Still others aid in digestion and produce enzymes, hormones, and vitamins.

For as many bacteria that are helpful, there are countless others that cause diseases. Some are familiar to us, like Heliobacter pylori, the bacteria that contributes to stomach ulcers, gastritis, and even stomach cancer.

Staph and strep are common bacteria known to cause a host of serious conditions, including meningitis, pneumonia, various skin maladies, sore throats, and fever.

Other serious diseases are caused by bacteria, like typhus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tetanus, tuberculosis, and leprosy. But perhaps the most famous disease caused by a common bacterium is the Black Death that swept through Europe in the 1300s. The bacteria that caused the plague is known as Y. pestis, and has not yet been eradicated. Outbreaks of bubonic plague still occur today, although never on the same scale as the Black Death.

Autotrophic Bacteria

Autotrophic bacteria are a type of bacteria that make their own energy by deconstructing inorganic substances and turning them into organic substances that can be broken down. Autotrophic bacteria come in two major classes: chemoautotrophs and photoautotrophs.

Chemoautotrophs are bacteria that use chemical energy. They taken in carbon dioxide and water and convert them into carbohydrates and sugars, the main energy sources for bacteria. Chemoautotrophs thrive at higher temperatures, like hot springs, and can survive in environments where nearly all other bacteria would die. Halophiles are a type of chemoautotrophic bacteria, and can live in a salt-abundant environment like the Dead Sea.

Photoautotrophs are bacteria that obtain their energy from sunlight, much like plants. They convert sunlight into chemical energy that fuel their processes. These organisms contain a green pigment called cyanobacteria, which serves the same function as chlorophyll in plants.

Coliform Bacteria

Coliform bacteria are not necessarily dangerous to humans, but can be indicative of the presence of bacteria that are. Scientists use coliform bacteria to measure the amount of fecal pathogens in a water supply.

The best known fecal coliform is E. coli, and its presence is almost always indicates that a body of water is contaminated with fecal matter. While only a few strains of E. coli are harmful, the mere presence points to other disease causing pathogens. If water with coliform bacteria is consumed, it can result in diseases including typhoid, dysentery, cholera, and giardiasis.

Parasitic worms as well as the viruses causing polio and hepatitis also tend to be found where coliforms are present. Contaminated water can be easily sterilized by boiling, but it is still important to regularly test water to ensure safety and quality.
It is especially important for those with well water to have it regularly tested, given that homes drawing their drinking water from a well are often located in a rural area, where there are typically septic systems and farm animals nearby.

A septic system should be sufficiently removed from the well and the well itself should be both deep enough and closed off so that it cannot be contaminated by runoff or by a dead animal falling in. Areas prone to flooding have a high risk for coliform contamination. Remember that even if water is pure at the source, it must still travel through your pipes to get to you, so faulty plumbing can also result in contamination. Water from a municipal source has added chlorine, which kills the bacteria from pipes, but since well water does not have the added chlorine, it is important to regularly replace the water filter, which should filter out any dangerous coliforms.

Photosynthetic Bacteria

Photosynthetic bacteria use the sun as a source of energy, much like plants. However, while plants use chlorophyll to absorb the sun’s rays, bacteria use a compound called bacteriaocholophyll to turn the sun’s energy into the nutrients needed for growth. There are three types of photosynthetic bacteria: Rhodospirilacae, Chromatiacae, and Chlorobiacae.

Rhodospirillacae are purple bacteria that are distinctive and easy to identify. These bacteria can use hydrogen gas as an organic electron donor or can also use succinate or malate, depending on the availability of each compound. Chromatiacae are also purple, and are gram-negative. Unlike Rhodospirillacae, they use sulfur and sulphide as an electron donor. Chlorobiacae are green bacteria that also use sulfur and sulphides.

Gram Negative Bacteria

Gram negative bacteria are a type of bacteria that do not turn purple as part of the Gram staining process. Instead, they will turn a red or pink sort of color. Hans Christian Gram created this test in 1884.

His first observation using this test was that the bacteria Typhus bacillus, or typhoid, didn’t stay purple after the test, so it was known as the first “Gram negative bacteria.” Gram negative bacteria will turn this pinkish or red color after the slide is rinsed with a certain counterstain.

This test detects the polymer peptigoglycan, which is part of the bacteria cell wall. The peptigoglycan forms a thick layer in Gram positive bacteria, which will result in a purple color after the test. The Gram negative bacteria result will be the reddish color. To complicate matters, there are even some bacteria that are Gram-variable and Gram-indeterminate as a result of the test. A Gram-variable pattern is a mix of purple and pink cells.

Ninety to ninety five percent of Gram negative bacteria are harmful or pathogenic. Types of Gram negative bacteria include: cyanobacteria, spirochaetes, and proteobacteria. Proteobacteria is a well-known and frightening group, which includes bacteria like e. coli, moraxella, salmonella, helicobacter, pseudomonas, legionella and stenotrophomonas. Most Gram negative bacteria are interesting in that they do not sporulate, or produce spores as part of their life cycle.

Gram Positive Bacteria

Gram positive bacteria describes a diverse class of bacteria. When stained with several dyes, gram negative bacteria will stain pink, while gram positive bacteria will stain a dark purple. The major difference in the two bacteria is their cell walls. Gram positive bacteria have cell walls with a high amount of peptidoglycan. The ability to distinguish between a gram positive and a gram negative organism is invaluable, especially when trying to determine a disease.

Gram positive bacteria have a cytoplasmic membrane which serves to transport materials, nutrients, and waste in and out of the cell.

Some gram positive organisms have a flagellum with two rings for support. The flagellum serves to move the organism in its environment providing a way to receive nutrients as well as going away from organisms harmful to the bacteria.

Gram positive bacteria can take on a number of shapes. Many of them form coccus, or circular shapes. Some have slightly flattened edges and come in pairs. These are known as diplococcus, and are easy to identify. Other circular bacteria will form clusters or lines, which help identify the particular kind of organism. These organisms such as Streptococcus and Staphylococcus are often pathogenic in humans and will cause disease in the right circumstances.

The bacteria can also form a bacillus or rod shaped. The rod shaped gram positive organisms are usually divided into spore forming or non spore forming. Members of the Bacillus bacteria will produce spores as a reproductive measure.

Examples of Bacteria

Bacteria describes a large group of microorganisms. Bacteria are usually a few micrometers and cannot be seen by the naked eye. They exist in almost every climate and source from hot springs to the Arctic circle. Their shapes vary from circular to rod-shaped and even spirals.

Although bacteria are often associated with germs and sickness, they serve an essential function. They perform vital tasks such as recycling nutrients. Nitrogen fixation is accomplished by bacteria living in the soil and around the roots of plants. Also, bacteria help to break down waste.

In addition to bacteria living on different surfaces, the human body itself is highly colonized with bacteria. Most of these bacteria are harmless, and even provide essential nutrients. Staphylococcus epidermidis is a bacteria commonly found on skin. In the large intestine, E. coli are found, which provide vitamin K, essential for the clotting function of blood.

Some bacteria can be harmful and even deadly. Staphylococcus can cause pneumonia and meningitis. Lyme disease is also caused by bacteria carried by the common tick. Many sexually transmitted diseases are also caused by bacteria.

Not all bacteria are harmful though. Yeast is an example of bacteria that provides many beneficial effects to everyday life. It contributes to the leavening of bread and the fermentation of products such as cheese, yogurt, and wine. Biotechnology studies and uses bacteria to treat diseases.

Shapes of Bacteria

Bacteria are almost always single celled, prokaryotic microscopic organisms. They are typically much smaller than eukaryotic cells because they lack lots of distinct organelles, such as nuclei. There are three main shapes of bacteria: bacillus, coccus, and spiral.

Bacillus, or rod shaped bacteria, are typically 0.5 micrometers to 1.0 micrometer in width, and from 1.0 micrometer to 4.0 micrometers in length. This shape of bacteria can also form long chains called streptobacillus. Another form is called coccobacillus, which describes a class of bacteria whose shape is somewhere between that of the coccus and the bacillus.

Another common shape of bacteria is the coccus. Cocci are spherically shaped bacteria that organize in several distinct arrangements when in groups: diplococcus, tetrad, sarcina, and staphylococcus arrangements. The diplococcus arrangement is characterized by cell division along one plane, where the bacteria will appear to form chains. Division along two planes yields a tetrad arrangement, characterized by squares of four bacteria. Division along three planes yields a sarcina arrangement, which is a cube made up of eight cells. The last arrangement occurs when the cells divide along random planes, and as one might guess, yields a random arrangement of the cells.

The last recognized form of bacteria is known as the spiral, which occurs in three distinct sub-forms. The first one is a called a vibrio, in which cells are characterized by a comma shaped rod. The second sub-form is called a spirillium. This refers to a cell that forms a thick, stiff spiral. The last sub-form is termed a spirochete, which is very closely related to the spirillium, but typically the spiral form is thinner and more flexible than the former. The spiral form can be rather large relative to the others, ranging in size from 1.0 micrometer to over 100 micrometers.

Some exceptions include filament strains, star shapes, square shapes, and even some more complex arrangements. Some have even been termed pleomorphic, meaning they are actually variable in shape.

Size of Bacteria

Of each of the shapes that bacteria may appear in, you will find different sizes. Coccus bacteria are round, spherical, or even oval bacteria typically 0.5 to 1.0 micrometers in diameter.

Bacteria that are rod like in appearance, the bacilli, measure 0.5 to 1.0 micrometers in breadth and 1.0 to 4.0 micrometers in length. Spiral bacteria measure from 1.0 micrometers to over 100.0 micrometers in length.

The stalked bacteria can range from 30.0 to 100.0 micrometers in diameter. Star-shaped bacteria, filamentous bacteria, lobed bacteria and bacteria sporting irregular shapes most commonly fall into a size range of approximately 1.0 micrometers in diameter.

Giant bacteria (giant when compared to the other bacteria) includes the Epulopiscium fishelsoni, which has a bacillus shape and measures 80 micrometers in diameter 200 to 600 micrometers in length, as well as the Thiomargarita namibiensis, a coccus that measures from 100 to 750 micrometers in diameter.

Square bacteria (called archaea) may be 2.5 micrometers across, but are only about 0.2 micrometers thick. Most recently, some scientists believe they have uncovered a micro bacteria no more than 0.2 micrometers in diameter.

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