Bacteriology is one of the many branches that fall under the blanket study of microbiology. This limb of microbiology specifically studies bacteria and their connection to other fields such as medicine, industry and agriculture. Like most areas of science, analyzing the relationship between bacteria and other diverse disciplines is not new.
Bacteriology arose from the necessity of medical professions to test and apply germ theory of disease. From an economic standpoint, this discipline was examined in relationship to finding ways to preserve food and wine. Scientist first identified and characterized the different bacteria that caused specific diseases.
At first, scientists applied Koch's postulates in order to test the relationship between bacteria and disease. His postulates basically stated that bacteria must be present in every case of disease, isolation of the bacteria from its disease is necessary for it to grow in a pure culture, the disease reproduces when the bacterial culture is given to a healthy host, and the bacteria can be recovered from the infected host. However, there were limits to his hypothesis.
Some of his limitations included the fact that some bacteria cannot be grown in a pure culture in a lab, no animal model of particular bacterial infection exists, and even harmless bacteria can cause disease under certain circumstances, such as during surgeries. Koch also didn't take into account that some people who carry infectious bacteria may not develop the disease. Despite the limitations of his findings, his postulates are still used as a stepping stone when studying infectious disease.
A look at bacteriology in the past 100 years can be viewed as a triumph in science. Today, most bacterial infections that once killed thousands of people have been identified. Lifesaving vaccines have been developed because of these identifications, and cases of diseases such as the bubonic plague, cholera, and typhoid are almost unheard of. Scientists have also developed antibiotics to fight minor bacterial infections individuals may get.
Ironically, it was the study of bacteriology that improved the way doctors handled medical patients. At one time, it was not unusual for medical professionals to handle a deathly ill person or even a dead body and then work on a patient who may have a minor illness. The study of bacteriology helped these professionals realize that the primary ways to stop the spread of disease was good sanitation and clean water.
Sanitation and clean water transcended to other areas. Now, whether it is a restaurant or a slaughterhouse, employers admonish their workers to wash their hands if they handle food. Farmers, too, try to ensure that clean water is used to water their crops because they know that unsafe water can bear food-borne bacteria.
No area of science is perfect. Although bacteriology has helped many advances occur, there are still new diseases that crop up every day that scientist have to examine and isolate. However, bacteriology has been instrumental in increasing life expectancy and eradicating a number of deadly diseases.