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Notes for Microbes in Human Welfare


Microbes are diverse protozoa, bacteria, fungi and microscopic plants viruses, viroids and also
prions (proteinocious infectious agents) What is Microbiology? Micro - too small to be seen
with the naked eye Bio life logy - study of It is the study of very small living organisms
called microorganisms/microbes Applications of Microbiology Food production: bread, beer
Microbes a s a source of food (SCP) Microbes in biogas production Microbes as biocontrol
agents Microbes as biofertilizers Bioremediation: decontamination of hazardous wastes
Useful industrial products: ethanol fuel, antibiotics, amino acids Genetic engineering:
pharmaceuticals, vaccines Microbes in sewage treatment MICROBES IN HOUSEHOLD
PRODUCTS: Lactic acid Bacteria (LAB) grow in milk and convert it to curd. LAB
produces acids that coagulate and partially digest milk proteins. LAB improves nutritional quality
of milk by increasing vitamin B12 LAB plays very important role in checking disease causing
microbes. Dough, used to make dosa and idli is also fermented by bacteria. The puffed-up
appearance of dough is due to the production of CO2.

2. Bakers yeast (Saccharomyces cervisiae) is used to making bread. Large holes in

Swiss cheese are due to production of large amount of CO2 by a bacterium named
Propionibacterium sharmanii. The Roquefort cheese is ripened by specific fungi, which gives
to the microbial biomass or total protein total extracted from pure microbial cell
culture(monoculture) which can be used as protein supplement. It is used because.They have
HIGH protein & LOW fat content. It is good source of vitamins particularly Bcomplex. It can be
produced through-out the year. Waste materials are used as substrate for the production of these
proteins. SCP organisms grows faster. The quality & quantity of protein content in microorganism is better compared to higher plants and animal.

3. Examples of edible of mushrooms: MICROBES IN INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTS:

Microbes are used in industry to synthesize a number of products Beverages, enzymes, organic
acids, vitamins and antibiotics are some examples. Microbes are grown in very large vessels
called fermenters.

4. Fermented Beverages: Yeasts are used for production of beverages like wine, beer,
whisky, brandy or rum. Saccharomyces cervisiae commonly called brewers yeast used for
fermenting malted cereals and fruit juices to produce ethanol. The type of raw material used for
fermentation and the processing, different types of alcoholic drinks are produced. Wine and beer
are produced without distillation. Whisky, brandy and rum are produced by distillation of the
fermented broth.

5. Antibiotics: Antibiotics are the chemical substances which are produced by some
microbes and can kill or retard the growth of other microbes. The first antibiotic discovered is the
penicillin, from a mould (fungus) Penicillium notatum. Antibiotics have greatly improved our
capacity to treat deadly diseases such as plague, whooping cough. Diphtheria and leprosy. List of

6. Name of antibiotic Obtained from Erythromycin Streptomyces erythaeraeus

Aureomycin Streptomyces aurofaciens Terramycin Streptomyces ramosus Chloromycetin

Streptomyces venezuela Streptomycin Streptomyces griseus Penicillin Pencillium notatum

Actinomycetin Micromonospora spp Tetramycin Streptomyces grisens Neomycin, novaboium
Streptomyces spp Chemicals, Enzymes and other Bioactive Molecules: Aspegillus
niger (a fungus) produces citric acid. Acetobacter aceti (a bacterium) produce acetic acid.
Clostridium butylicum (a bacterium) produce butyric acid. Lactobacillus(a bacterium) produces
lactic acid. Lipases are used in detergent produced by microbes. Pectinase, proteases and
cellulase, make bottled fruit juices clearer. Streptokinase produced by Streptococcus used as a
clot buster, for removing clots from the blood vessels. Cyclosporin-A produced by a fungus
called Trichoderma polysporum used as immunosuppressive agent in organ transplantation.
Statins produced by Monascus purpureus used as blood cholesterol lowering agents. It acts as
competitive inhibitor for the enzyme responsible for synthesis of cholesterol. Gibberellins are
produced in greater mass by soil fungi Gibberella fujikuroi.

7. Some commercial enzymes and source microorganisms:

8. MICROBES IN SEWAGE TREATMENT: The waste water generated in cities and

town containing human excreta. This municipal water-water is called sewage. Before disposal to
the natural body sewage is treated in sewage treatment plants (STPs) to make it less polluting.
Treatment is done by heterotrophic microbes naturally present in sewage. Primary treatment:
Involves the physical removal of particles large and small from sewage through filtration and
sedimentation. Initially floating debris is removed by sequential filtration. The grit (soil and small
pebbles) are removed by sedimentation. All solids that settle form the primary sludge, and the
supernatant forms the effluents. The effluents are from the primary settling tank taken for
secondary treatment.

9. Secondary treatment or Biological treatment: The primary effluent is passed into large
aeration tanks. This allows vigorous growth of useful aerobic microbes intoflocs. The growth of
microbes consumes the major part of the organic matter in the effluent. This significantly reduces
the BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) of the effluent. BOD refers to the amount of oxygen
required to oxidize total organic matter by bacteria, present in one liter of water. BOD is the
measures of the organic matter present in the water. Greater the BOD of the waste water more is
its polluting potential. Once the BOD of sewage reduced significantly, the effluent is then passed
into the settling tank where the bacterial flocs are allowed to sediment. This sediment is called
activated sludge. Small part of activated sludge is pumped back to aeration tank to serve as the
inoculums. The remaining sludge is pumped into anaerobic sludge digester.

10. In the anaerobic sludge digester there is other kinds of bacteria which grow
anaerobically, digest the bacteria and fungi in the sludge. During this digestion bacteria produce
biogas, (mixture of methane, hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide) The effluent from the
secondary treatment plant is released into natural water body like rivers and streams. Ganga
Action Plan and Yamuna Action Plan initiated by Ministry of Environment and Forest to save
these major rivers of our country. It is proposed to build a large number of sewage treatment
plants so that only treated sewage may be discharged into the rivers. MICROBES IN
PRODUCTION OF BIOGAS: Biogas is a mixture of gases (predominantly methane)
produced by the microbial activity and is used as fuel. Certain bacteria grow anaerobically on
cellulosic material, produce large amount of methane along with CO2 and H2S. These bacteria
are collectively called methanogens. One common bacterium is Methanobacterium. These
bacteria present in the rumen of cattle, plays essential role in nutrition of cattle by digesting
cellulose. Hence the excreta (dung) used for the production of biogas. This is a multistep
biological and chemical process that is beneficial in not only waste management but also energy
creation. There are four fundamental steps of anaerobic digestion that include hydrolysis,
acidogenesis, acetogenesis, and methanogenesis. Throughout this entire process, large organic

polymers that make up Biomass are broken down into smaller molecules by chemicals and
microorganisms. Upon completion of the anaerobic digestion process, the Biomass is converted
into Biogas, namely carbon dioxide and methane, as well as digestate and wastewater.

11. The whole biogas-process can be divided into three steps: hydrolysis, acidification,
and methane formation. Biogas microbes consist of a large group of complex and differently
acting microbe species.Three types of bacteria are involved : Pseudomonas, Clostridium,
Methanococcous and Methanobacillus spp. MICROBES AS BIOCONTROL AGENT:
Biocontrol refers to the use of biological methods for controlling plant diseases and pests. Effect
of use of chemical, insecticide and pesticide to control disease and pests: o These chemicals are
toxic and extremely harmful to human beings and animals o Polluting our environment (soil,
ground water), fruits, and vegetables. o Soil is polluted through use of weedicides to remove
weeds. Biological control of pest and disease: Use of biocontrol measures will greatly reduce
our dependence on toxic chemical and pesticides. The Ladybird and Dragonflies are used to get
rid of aphids and mosquitoes.

12Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) used to control butterfly caterpillars. Dried spores are mixed
with water and sprayed onto vulnerable plants, where these are eaten by the insect larvae. In the
gut of the larvae, the toxin is released and the larvae get killed. Trichodermaa free living fungus
used to control several plant pathogens. Baculoviruses are pathogen that attack insects and other
arthropods The majority of baculoviruses used as biological control agents are in the genus
Nucleopolyhedrovirus. These viruses are excellent candidates for species-specific, narrow
spectrum insecticidal application. They have no negative impacts on plants, mammals, birds, fish,
etc. This is very use full in integrated pest managements (IPM). MICROBES AS
BIOFERTILIZERS: Biofertilizers are organisms that enrich the nutrient quality of the
soil. Main biofertilizers are the bacteria, fungi and cyanobacteria. Rhizobiumform root nodules in
legumes and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Azospiriliumand Azotobacter free living bacteria fix
atmospheric nitrogen and thus increasing nitrogen content of the soil. Mycorrhiza: fungi
symbiotically associated with root of plants.
13. Azzola biofertilizer Mycorrhiza. o Provide phosphorus to the plants from the soil. o Make the
plant resistant to root-borne pathogen. o Increase tolerance to salinity and drought. Cyanobacteria
like Anabaena, Nostoc, and Oscillatoria etc:

Industrial Application of Microbes

Microbes have been used to produce products for thousands of years. Even in ancient
times, vinegar was made by filtering alcohol through wood shavings, allowing microbes
growing on the surfaces of the wood pieces to convert alcohol to vinegar. Likewise, the
production of wine and beer uses another microbe yeast to convert sugars to
alcohol. Even though people did not know for a long time that microbes were behind
these transformations, it did not stop them from making and selling these products.
Both of these are early examples of biotechnology the use of microbes for economic
or industrial purposes. This field advanced considerably with the many developments
in microbiology, such as the invention of microscope. Once scientists learned about the
genetics of microbes, and how their cells produce proteins, microbes could also be altered
to function in many new, and useful, ways. This sparked the application of biotechnology
to many industries, such as agriculture, energy and medicine.
Genetic Engineering of Microbes
Genetic information in organisms is stored in their DNA. This molecule holds
instructions for how the organism looks and functions. DNA is broken into sections
called genes, each of which contains the template for a single protein molecule. Proteins
serve as building blocks for the cell, and also carry out other activities. By studying
microbes, scientists learned how to cut pieces out of a DNA molecule, and move them to
another part. This changes how the cell looks or acts. Scientists can also take genes from
one organism and insert them into the DNA of another. This gives the organism entirely
new abilities.
This type of genetic engineering the altering of an organisms genetic information
has enabled scientists to use microbes as tiny living factories. One example of this is the
production of insulin. In humans, the pancreas creates a protein called insulin that
regulates glucose sugar levels in the blood. People with one type of diabetes cannot
produce insulin, so they inject it into their blood throughout the day. To produce cheaper
insulin, scientists inserted the human gene for insulin into the DNA of a common
intestinal bacterium. This change enabled the bacterium to produce a new product
human insulin.
Food and Agriculture & Microbes
As with the production of vinegar, microbes are used widely in the agricultural and food
industries. Bacteria are used in the production of many food products, such as yogurt,
many types of cheese and sauerkraut. Farmers also use a bacterium that produces a
natural fertilizer. This type of bacterium is normally associated with bean plants, growing
in nodules on the roots in a symbiotic mutually beneficial relationship. The
bacterium converts nitrogen gas in the air to a form that plants can use like fertilizer.
By adding bacteria to the soil, farmers can increase the productivity of the plants.
Genetic engineering can also be used to produce plants with new abilities, such as
enhanced resistance to pesticides, or increased nutritional content. In this case, microbes
are used to insert new genes into the DNA of the plants. This results in genetically

modified GM foods. Humans have long modified the genetics of agricultural plants
and animals by breeding them to enhance specific traits. Genetical engineering, however,
allows scientists to add genes that exist in totally unrelated organisms.
Energy & Microbes
During vinegar production with wood chips, bacteria grow on the surface of the wood,
forming what is called a biofilm. Bacteria attached to a surface like this can produce
many compounds, as well as block the flow of a fluid. The latter behavior has been used
to increase the amount of oil extracted from an oil field. Bacteria growing in the wells
block areas that are more open. When water is then pumped into the ground, the biofilms
drive the water into other areas that still contain oil. This then forces the oil to the surface.
Microbes can also be used to create fuels directly. Certain bacteria ferment glycerol to
form ethanol, a biofuel that can be used in automobiles. The glycerol is a byproduct of
biodiesel production, but it is more valuable if converted to fuel. With genetic
engineering, microbes can also be altered to produce fuels that they dont usually make.
One company has modified the DNA of yeast to create biofuel from sugarcane feedstock.
The challenge to all of these methods is creating a process that produces fuels more easily
and cheaply than conventional methods.
Crime and Security & Microbes
Certain types of bacteria thrive in high temperatures. These extremophiles organisms
that prefer extreme conditions have cell components designed to withstand heat. One
of these is a bacterium, Thermus aquaticus, that lives in hot springs and near thermal
vents. It contains an enzyme that is involved in the copying of DNA inside the cell. This
type of enzyme occurs in other organisms, but the one from T. aquaticus can withstand
higher temperatures. Scientists use this enzyme to multiply very small amounts of DNA,
such as from samples found at crime scenes.
Other techniques are used to identify disease-causing microbes released by terrorists. The
microbes can be identified from their DNA. These tests are extremely sensitive, and can
find the DNA equivalent of a drop of water in a swimming pool. The U.S. Postal used
microbe-detection techniques after letters contaminated with a dangerous microbe
anthrax were sent through the mail. The tests identified the microbe as coming from
the same source, meaning that a single person sent all of the letters.
Medical Application of Microbes
In addition to vaccines and antibiotics, microbes have been essential for many important
contributions to medicine. Like diabetes, many diseases can be treated with compounds derived
from microbes: cystic fibrosis, cancer, growth hormone deficiency and hepatitis B. In addition,
genetic methods that were first developed in microbes now allow scientists to study genetic
diseases in humans. This has resulted in the ability to test fetuses for genetic diseases.
There have also been research studies of gene therapy in humans. This technique uses a microbe often a
virus to insert new genes into cells. In theory, this could correct a condition caused by a genetic disease.
Microbial genetics has also led to the ability to determine the sequence of DNA more rapidly, like reading a

book. With this information, scientists can look for genes in individuals that cause or contribute to