What is a microorganism?

We explain what a microorganism is, its characteristics and classification. In addition, beneficial and harmful microorganisms.

  1. What is a microorganism?

Microorganisms are those organisms that, due to their small size, are imperceptible to the eye.

Also called “microbes,” these organisms have a very basic biological organization : a significant proportion of them have only a single cell . In addition, they are characterized by numerous varieties, of different shapes and sizes.

The unicellular organisms prokaryotes and eukaryotes , along with certain fungi and algae make up the universe of microbes.

  1. Characteristics of microorganisms

Microorganisms - microbes
Microorganisms have the ability to alter the environment in which they are found.

Microorganisms have a number of characteristics in common:

  • Their size is so small that they are imperceptible to the naked eye.
  • Your metabolic reactions are very fast.
  • The relationship they have with the environment is intense.
  • They need water to metabolize.
  • They develop dispersion and resistance mechanisms.
  • They have the ability to alter the environment in which they are found.
  • They reproduce at high speed.
  • Its activity is indispensable for life on the planet .
  • They are part of the biogeochemical cycles that are carried out in nature .
  • They are very light, so they are transported in the air .
  1. Types of microorganisms

Within nature, different types of microorganisms can be identified. Some of them are as follows:

  • Virus . They are the most basic microbes and can only be perceived withelectron microscopes . To reproduce, they must infect other unicellular organisms, which are inoculated with their genetic content (they can only reproduce in a host cell).
  • Cyanophyly seaweed. These are large bacteria and are characterized by photosynthesis in a very similar way to plants, that is, oxygenic (they give off oxygen).
  • Fungi . Just like yeast , many of the organisms that make up the Fungi Kingdom are microscopic.
  • You protists . These are eukaryotic unicellular microbes of great volume. They usually develop in aquatic environments , which can be fresh or salt water, or in very humid places. Although some varieties develop parasitic lives, in general, these organisms prey on other microorganisms when feeding.
  • Arches and bacteria . These are two types of prokaryotic and unicellular organisms, and they are the simplest microbes. They make up the group of microbes with the greatest presence on Earth, they feed on the habitat they are in and their reproduction is based on the division of their genetic material.
  1. Harmful and beneficial microorganisms

Microbes - microorganisms
Viruses can only reproduce within a host cell.

There are microorganisms that are harmful to the health of the people , because the attack vital cells, can cause diseases that sometimes can lead to death . Some of these microbes are the following:

  • Bacteria They are microorganisms that belong to the Monera Kingdom , release toxins and can survive inside or outside a cell. In addition, they are unicellular and lack nucleus . Not all bacteria are pathogenic, but some can be beneficial for health or neutral.
  • Virus. These microbes, which have a spiral or spherical shape, can only reproduce within a host cell. These microbes, which can be infectious, have a single type of nucleic acid, and are always pathogenic. Viruses can never be eliminated with antibiotics and only their symptoms can be attacked.
  • Mushrooms. These microbes can generate infectious diseases and develop outside the bodies.

Among the microorganisms there are varieties that are beneficial for life, the environment and health of the human being . Here are some examples where microbes intervene beneficially:

  • Food industry. Microbes play a fundamental role in the production of certain products . For example, yogurt, cheese or beer are the result of fermented foods , thanks to the action of microbes. In these cases, the microbes produce lactic acid that facilitates food preservation.
  • Body. There are microorganisms that participate in certain processes within the human body, such as digestion and even act in defense of other organisms that can affect health.
  • Garbage. Through certain biological processes such as stabilization or decomposition, the microbes clean the waste. They end up converting waste into humus or compost.
  • Agriculture . Many of the microorganisms that inhabit the soil facilitate agricultural production. Either because they act as pesticides or because they help the growth of plants .
  1. Examples of microorganisms

Escherichia coli - microorganisms - microbes
Escherichia coli microbes inhabit the intestines.

Some of the best known and studied microorganisms, which can cause diseases, are the following:

  • Escherichia coli. They are the microbes that cause diseases such as hemorrhagic diarrhea or kidney failure. They inhabit the intestines.
  • Salmonella These microorganisms cause various diseases. A good part of them are diarrheal. It spreads through urine and feces.
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae. They are the microbes that cause diseases such as pneumonia, sinusitis or otitis, as well as meningitis.
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In general, they affect the functioning of the liver and lung, but have the ability to make any organ in the body sick. They are very cold resistant microbes.
  • Yersinia pestis. This microbe, which can cause plague, lives in rodents, although it is transmitted through fleas.
  • Bacillus cereus. This microorganism causes poisoning, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. Inhabits food and is characterized by reproducing very easily.
  • Treponema pallidum. This microorganism is fought with penicillin and is characterized by not surviving outside the body. In addition, this microbe causes the sexually transmitted disease called syphilis.

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