Infectious Diseases

Beneficial and Harmful Aspects of Bacteria



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Bacteria are one of the main forms of microorganism and are around us and even inside us all of the time. In some cases they are beneficial such as the commensal bacteria that are found in the human gut. These can have positive effects such as aiding the digestive process and helping boost the immune system against allergies. But in other cases they are harmful to human beings by causing bacterial infections. In some cases, such as salmonella, the bacterial infection can even cause death.

One example of a beneficial aspect of bacteria is the presence of bacterial species in the human gut. They are one part of the gut flora and are thought to perform important tasks such as aiding the digestive process. As a result they have given rise to an industry providing products such as yoghurts that are aimed at boosting the friendly bacteria levels. These commensal bacteria in the gut can help to break down some polysaccarhides that the human gut cannot on its own.

There are other beneficial aspects of bacteria as well. The gut bacteria are thought to have a role to play in allergy prevention in humans. The friendly gut bacteria can also act to keep populations of damaging bacteria down in the human gut. The bacteria can have other useful properties too, such as aiding the fight against inflammatory bowel diseases and also encouraging the growth of useful cells such as intestinal epithelial cells and lymphoid cells.

But there is also a downside to bacteria. They are the underlying causal agents of many different infections of human beings. In some cases they are fairly mild infections but some are potentially deadly. Many bacterial infections will either clear up on their own as the immune system comes to terms with them or they will be cleared up by taking antibiotics. Although the over-use of antibiotics over the last few decades has led to bacterial strains evolving that are increasingly resistant to these drugs.

In the worst cases bacterial infections can be deadly. One example of a potentially deadly bacterial infection is MRSA. This infection has caused many problems in hospitals in recent years and has been the cause of many deaths. New rigorous cleaning regimes with anti-MRSA agents have had to be introduced to tackle the problem. Salmonella food poisoning is another potential bacterial killer. This is found when food is prepared in unhygienic conditions in the home or a restaurant.

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