|Name:||Ms. Azra Kidwai|
The good…… not bad and ugly.
The living world includes a spectrum of organisms ranging from the most primitive forms like bacteria to the most advanced category that includes human beings. Bacteria have been popular mostly for their pathogenic action. Over a period of time, we have become obsessed with the thought of eliminating bacteria with sanitizers and soaps, always associating them with infections and illness. Although advancement in the field of Microbiology and Biotechnology has led to genetically engineer these microbes to develop novel strategies in order to combat environmental and health issues.
The fact that thousands of them live commensally in our body and provide health benefits is gradually being accepted. The mere idea of tossing down billions of bacteria seems hard to swallow. With the introduction of probiotics like Yakult in the Indian market, the conceptions have changed. Japanese scientist , Dr Minoru Shirota discovered that bacterium Lactobacillus casei Shirota can be used to ferment skimmed milk. It helps in improving the digestive and immune system.
Some strains of probiotic bacteria may even help in treating anxiety and depression related disorders by lowering the levels of stress hormone cortisol.
With exponential growth in human population the environment has been effected adversely. Disposal of non biodegradable products like plastics is a cause of concern. A team of Japanese scientists have found a species of bacteria (Ideonella sakaiensis) that eats the plastic in water bottles.
Another strain called Alcanivorax has a property of cleaning up oil spills. They are presently being used in the Gulf of Mexico. Production of biofuel Butanol from paper waste is yet another example of microbial aid.
Bacteria are ubiquitous and can also be used for degradation of broad spectrum pesticides, industrial and textile mill effluents. Hence, these tiny structures discovered by Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek in the late 17th century are now known to be silent workers aiding the human race in multiple ways.
- Azra Kidwai