Does the word " Bacteria" scare you?

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Does Bacteria Scare You? -

For many years, society has referred to bacteria as "dirt, disease, and death," as mentioned in the article " Bacteria: More than Pathogens," by Trudy M. Wassenaar, Ph. D. With the introduction to better hygiene, antibiotics, and vaccinations, the phobia of bacteria has declined significantly. Although there are disease causing bacteria, the vast majority of those bacteria survive in areas where vaccines and antimicrobial are inaccessible causing people in these areas to still be at risk. With that said, in the past, media portrayed that the only good bacterium was dead bacterium.

Many confused bacteria with viruses. Bacteria is an independent organism located on the outside of our cells, whereas a virus can only multiple in the inside of the cell it infects. "Interestingly, some viruses, called bacteriophages, have specialized to infect bacteria." Nevertheless, both viruses and bacteria may lead to diseases, however some bacteria are actually beneficial. Majority of bacteria are harmless, and only become dangerous in certain circumstances. - Antibiotic induced diarrhea

Although antibiotics are prescribed to treat bacterial infections, they also removes portions of good bacteria causing common diseases such as “Antibiotic Induced Diarrhea.” Bacterial species known as probiotics, aid to restore the inner lining of our intestines as well as helping with other beneficial factors. As of today, the most common probiotics used are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. In addition, bacteria is used in preparation of food, in many cheese varieties, and even help to attain the desired flavor of cacao and coffee beans.

The human body is made up of millions of bacteria which are located on our skin, in our nose, mouth and gut. It is said that up to 500 species can be found as normal oral flora, where 25 of those species are commonly located in a single mouth. It is also noted that up to 40 million bacterial cells can be locate in just a milliliter of saliva, and 108 in the initial part of the colon. - No fear of bacteria

Humans are significantly outnumbered by bacteria on earth (1010 humans vs 5x1030 bacteria), but as Dr. Wassenaar mentions, “without bacteria we would not survive.” Our fears, as portrayed in the media, are being reconsidered as we continue to evaluate the massive benefits associated with probiotics.

Trudy Wassenaar, Ph.D., is a molecular biologist specializing in microbiology. She has done research at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Utrecht (The Netherlands), as well as at the University of Mainz (Germany), for over 15 years. In 2000, she founded a consulting company to assist research groups in academia and governmental agencies with the development of research strategies and dissemination of results. She is Curator of the Virtual Museum of Bacteria (supported by the Foundation for Bacteriology).  She is also author of the book Bacteria: The Benign, the Bad, and the Beautiful.


  • C.Michael Hogan. 2010. Bacteria. Encyclopedia of Earth. eds. Sidney Draggan and C.J.Cleveland, National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC
  • Wassenaar, T. (2002, July). Bacteria: More than Pathogens. Retrieved August 4, 2015, from

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