Misconceptions about bacteria

Are all bacteria harmful?

No! Not all bacteria are harmful, and some are even beneficial. Certain bacteria can be harmful to different organisms; for example, citrus trees may become infected with Citrus canker, Xanthomonas axonopodis, which causes lesions on the leaves, stems, and fruit. However, the fruit is still safe for human consumption and does not have any health effects. Other bacteria can have both helpful and harmful strains. For example, Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli) are present and common in healthy human intestines. However, you may have heard of E. coli outbreaks in contaminated foods that have caused serious illness in humans.

Addressing some misconceptions about bacteria

1. Bacteria are living organisms! Bacteria are able to function and reproduce without a host organism, an organism to draw energy and nutrients from. However, they still require the same basic needs as humans: water, nutrients, and energy.

2. Bacteria are not viruses! Bacteria actually make up their own Kingdom in the classification of organisms, the Bacteria Kingdom. Viruses on the other hand are not living organisms and are not part of any Kingdom. They are entirely dependent on a host organism for replication and propagation and are inert outside of a host.

3. Not all bacteria are harmful to humans; some are even beneficial! Certain bacteria can be harmful to different organisms, other bacteria can have both helpful and harmful strains. For example, Escherichia coli (E. coli) are present and common in healthy human intestines. However, you may have heard of E. coli outbreaks in contaminated foods that have caused serious illness in humans.

4. Washing your hands with dish soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds is just as effective at removing bacteria as using an antibacterial soap. Antibacterial/antimicrobial soaps, medicines, and other products can be effective at killing large quantities of harmful bacteria, but if used excessively and/or inappropriately, they can create antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. This can be a problem if the bacteria with the antibiotic resistant strain is harmful to humans as it is unresponsive to many types of antibiotic treatments.

Click here to take a quiz on what you just learned!

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