Why Study Microbiology? 5 Key Reasons

These are compelling reasons why you may be interested in studying Microbiology.

Why study Microbiology?

Not everything we see is really what there is. A whole world of microorganisms surrounds us that cannot be seen with the naked eye and that influence the most basic aspects of our existence.

Microbes play important roles so that the world is as we know it : they participate in phenomena such as the cycles of obtaining substances, the decomposition of organic matter, or even the digestion of food.

They also have a harmful side: the existence of pathogens. Although their proportion is much lower than the benefits they bring us, they have always had a fundamental impact on history.

For all this, it is not surprising that the scientific community has wanted to study them for centuries, to understand what we cannot see. And this is where microbiology is born.

In this article we will see several reasons about why study Microbiology as a university path.

Why study Microbiology? 5 important advantages

We understand as a microorganism any unicellular organism or acellular entity (such as prions or viruses) that we cannot see with the naked eye, since everything that is less than 1 millimeter in diameter is difficult to observe with the eyes. This science is responsible for the study of prions, viruses, bacteria, archaea, protozoa, fungi and algae. It should be mentioned that these last two also have members that are larger and can be seen with our eyes, studied in other branches (botany, in this case).

Many people associate microorganisms with germs that cause disease in humans and affect health, but the truth is that our body benefits from most of these, and they are even used to make food products, such as cheese, yogurt or daily bread. Without their study, we would never have generated antibiotics or vaccines that today have helped us improve our health.

Thus, there are many reasons to study microbiology, a science that is linked to many others (for example, medicine or ecology) and that is useful for many aspects of life.

1. The need for medical advances

It is clear that studying microbes has been key to understanding, among other things, which act as pathogens and what are their mechanisms that cause disease in humans. There are millions of microorganisms, and although there are only a hundred capable of harming us, more research is still necessary to find remedies for many of them that still have no cure or medical prevention mode.

Apart from this, the other side of germs has also been studied in the field of medicine, that is, their health benefits. Now we know that we have intestinal flora that helps us digest certain foods or obtain certain components, such as vitamin K.

But even more important was the discovery of antibiotics produced by some species of bacteria and fungi. These are proteins whose function is to attack and eliminate other bacteria through various mechanisms, such as not allowing the cell wall to be generated, which greatly weakens the bacteria. The downside is that its massive use has managed to select bacteria, generating an offspring of pathogens that are resistant to these drugs, so the synthesis and discovery of new drugs is an essential task.

It can also be added that studying microbiology can be used to research new vaccines for pathogens. At the end of the day, a vaccine is a preventive element that serves to promote the proliferation of antibodies, a defense element created by our body to react earlier and better against the pathogen. Thus, if the microbe in question infects us, we already have the appropriate defense for a quick attack.

2. Its application to the food and chemical industry

Another aspect for which you may be interested in studying Microbiology is having the possibility of controlling certain processes in the food industry, such as fermentation. This consists of the activity of microorganisms when they transform an organic matter into a simpler one. In the production of some commercial products it is very interesting: cheese, yogurt or beer cannot exist without this type of procedure. The control of fermentation within large tanks or bioreactors is of vital importance to ensure the quality of the final product.

But it is not the only area of ​​utility in food processing. The production of amino acids, the essential component of proteins, is another important aspect of this industry, due to their use as additives. For example, we rely on glutamic acid to generate the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG); or aspartic acid, to form the sweetener aspartame, or the manufacture of vitamins as a supplement (for example, B12). Also noteworthy is the production of citric acid, a product with many uses: antioxidant, pH adjuster, flavoring, etc .; as well as

Not only the food industry takes advantage of the existence of these microorganisms. In the chemical industry they are used as components of household and clothing cleaning products, such as detergents, enzymes that are produced on a large scale by fungi and bacteria. These are proteins that break down other components, such as proteases (break down proteins), amylases (starch), or lipases (fats).

3. Its application to microbial biotechnology

This is one of the areas of work in the microbiologist’s career that has grown the most in recent years. Biotechnology is the application in technology of using living organisms or their products. Within this, a large part uses microorganisms to make their processes work.

One of its main objectives is to transform a bacterium by inoculating genes of interest in its genome so that these are then expressed. An example will make it clearer: the case of insulin production.

As we know, people with diabetes often need to inject insulin because their bodies lack it for various reasons. Although previously the insulin produced by pigs was used, which was very similar to human insulin, today it is possible to purify human insulin by producing it by colonies (groups) of bacteria. These microorganisms have been introduced to the gene for human insulin, and therefore, they are capable of transcribing the protein and producing it. This method of GMO production is used with countless genes.

Another reason of interest to study microbiology, also linked to biotechnology, is the development of biosensors. Living microorganisms are linked to electrons, and the chemical reactions they carry out can be detected by electrical impulses. This makes it possible to detect components in food, for example: the presence of glucose, toxins or pathogens, etc. A good method of food safety and water control.

4. Because of its potential in terms of sustainability

With a growing demand for a more sustainable system, microorganisms gain importance. The use of biopesticides allows to create more ecological crops, by using bacteria, viruses and fungi or their components to combat the insect pests that attack crops. It is a way to avoid the use of synthetic chemicals and potentially toxic to a wide variety of life forms.

Another reason related to sustainability is the possibility of obtaining alternative energies, such as the production of ethanol (85% ethanol fuel was used for automobiles) or methane, which originates from the decomposition of waste material. organic. The synthesis of biopolymers to substitute polymers derived from petroleum, that is, plastic, is also a growing trend.

5. By knowledge

The truth is that the most important reason to study Microbiology, like anything else, is to have an intellectual interest in it. In this science you have to be curious about the idea of ​​knowing the world that we do not see, all those small organisms that escape our gaze. Wanting to know how they interact with each other and with the environment.

In short, this academic and professional trajectory is very interesting to know the mechanisms of life, since as said at the beginning, microbes are everywhere, and many fulfill essential tasks for this. It is fascinating how something so small is so important so that, after so many years of Earth’s history, they continue to fulfill their tasks that maintain life on this planet.

Bibliographic references:

  • Tortora GJ, Funke B. and Case C. (2007). “Introduction to Microbiology” (9th ed.). Editorial Panamericana.
  • Murray P., Rosenthal K., and Pfaller M. (2013). “Medical Microbiology” (7th ed.). Editorial Elsevier Saunder.
  • Prescott L., Harley J. and Klein D. (2002). “Microbiology” (5th ed.). McGraw Hill Publishing House.
  • Thieman W. and Palladino M. (2010). “Introduction to biotechnology” (2nd ed.). Editorial Pearson.
  • Madigan M., Martinko J. and Parker J. (2003). “Brock, Biology of Microorganisms” (10th ed.). Editorial Pearson.

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