Health

When should you throw away leftovers?

Refrigeration is the most important invention in the history of food. But while commercial and home refrigerators have only been used for the past 100 years or so, people have long used cool natural environments to store ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Sequencing gut microbes shows differences between IBD and IBS

A team of researchers with members from the Netherlands and the U.S. has found differences in the numbers of gut microbes for patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In their paper ...

Genetics

Engineering bacteria to treat genetic diseases

A pill containing millions of bacteria ready to colonize your gut might be a nightmare to many. But it may become an effective new tool for fighting disease.

Medical research

Immigration to U.S. Westernizes Asian guts

Have you ever lived long enough in another country to see changes in your overall health? Or perhaps, you have noticed that after a friend moved to the U.S. his health seemed to deteriorate.

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Microorganism

A microorganism (from the Greek: μικρός, mikrós, "small" and ὀργανισμός, organismós, "organism"; also spelled micro organism or micro-organism) or microbe is an organism that is microscopic (usually too small to be seen by the naked human eye). The study of microorganisms is called microbiology, a subject that began with Anton van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microorganisms in 1675, using a microscope of his own design.

Microorganisms are very diverse; they include bacteria, fungi, archaea, and protists; microscopic plants (called green algae); and animals such as plankton, the planarian and the amoeba. Some microbiologists also include viruses, but others consider these as non-living. Most microorganisms are unicellular (single-celled), but this is not universal, since some multicellular organisms are microscopic, while some unicellular protists and bacteria, like Thiomargarita namibiensis, are macroscopic and visible to the naked eye.

Microorganisms live in all parts of the biosphere where there is liquid water, including soil, hot springs, on the ocean floor, high in the atmosphere and deep inside rocks within the Earth's crust. Microorganisms are critical to nutrient recycling in ecosystems as they act as decomposers. As some microorganisms can fix nitrogen, they are a vital part of the nitrogen cycle, and recent studies indicate that airborne microbes may play a role in precipitation and weather.

Microbes are also exploited by people in biotechnology, both in traditional food and beverage preparation, and in modern technologies based on genetic engineering. However, pathogenic microbes are harmful, since they invade and grow within other organisms, causing diseases that kill millions of people, other animals, and plants.

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