An earlier edition of this post was originally posted on December 8, 2014.
Bacteria rule the world. Not only do they far outnumber every other type of plant or animal, they are everywhere - inside and outside every other type of animal and in every conceivable environment, from boiling thermal vents to sub-zero glaciers. But not all bacteria are germs, or illness-causing bacteria. Most are vital to our survival and to the survival of life on Earth. Unfortunately, some bacteria are dangerous, especially to those of us with weak immune systems. Today’s post will explore this incredible branch of the tree of life, and our “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em” relationship with these microorganisms.
What is bacteria?
Bacteria are single-cell organisms. Where humans are made up of, on average 1 trillion cells, bacteria are made up of just one. But one isn't the loneliest number when it comes to bacteria; they reproduce very efficiently by splitting into two, who then go on to split into two more… and on until you have a colony of bacteria. Some of these colonies are beneficial to us, some don't harm us at all, and some are downright nasty, leading to harmful infections which can threaten our lives.