What are Bacteria?

Bacteria may have been the first “being” to appear on Earth, about 4 billion years ago, some are harmful but must serve a useful purpose. They support many forms of life, plants, and animals, and are used in industrial and medicinal processes.

The oldest known fossils are bacteria-like organisms. Because bacteria can use most organic and some inorganic compounds as food and some of them can survive in extreme conditions. They can prosper in all of Earth’s habitats, growing into the soil, or in more acidic sources, radioactive waste, water and in the depths of terrestrial land, as well as in organic matter and the living bodies of plants and animals.

They are single-celled organisms that are neither plants nor animals.
They usually measure a few micrometers in length, they have a wide variety of shapes, ranging from

  • Spheres
  • Sticks
  • Spirals

They exist together in communities of millions, one gram of soil typically contains about 40 million bacterial cells.

A milliliter of freshwater usually contains about a million bacterial cells.

What are the types of bacteria?

There are many different types of bacteria. One way to classify them is by their shape. There are three basic forms.

1. Spherical

A ball-shaped bacteria, they are called coconuts and a single bacterium is a coconut. Examples of group or streptococcus responsible for “sore throat”.

2. Rod-shaped

They are known as bacilli. Some rod-shaped bacteria are curved. These are known as vibrio. Examples of rod-shaped bacteria used Bacillus anthracis (B. anthracis) or anthrax.

3. Spiral

They are accessible as spirilla. If a coil is too open, it is identified as spirochetes. Leptospirosis, Lyme disease, and syphilis are caused by bacteria in this way. There are many restrictions within each group of forms.

Are bacteria multicellular?

Bacteria are not multicellular organisms. They are a large group of single-celled microorganisms. A bacterium (a unique form of bacteria) is a small organism and is called a prokaryotic or prokaryotic cell.

There are differences between these unicellular prokaryotes and multicellular organisms, the first one is that a multicellular organism composed of many cells is called eukaryotes. Eukaryotes cells are composite with a nucleus. This nucleus is the main difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

Bacteria are prokaryotes, which means they have no nucleus.

Bacterial cells are different from plant and animal cells.
A bacterial cell includes;

  • Capsule: A layer found on the outside of the cell wall in some bacteria.
  • Cell wall: Layer made of a polymer called peptidoglycan. The cell wall gives bacteria its shape. It is located outside the plasma membrane. The cell wall is thicker in some bacteria, called Gram-positive bacteria.
  • Plasma membrane: found in the cell wall, generates energy and transports chemicals. The membrane is permeable, or which means that substances can pass through it.
  • Cytoplasm: Gelatinous substance within the plasma membrane that contains genetic material and ribosomes.
  • DNA: contains all the genetic instructions used in the development and function of bacteria. It is located within the cytoplasm.
  • Ribosomes: Here are the proteins produced or synthesized. Ribosomes are complexes formed by RNA rich in RNA.
  • Scourge: It is used for movement, to boost some types of bacteria. Some bacteria can have more than one.
  • Pili: These resources are similar to external parts of the cell that can be stored on surfaces and transfer genetic material to other cells. This can contribute to the spread of disease in humans.

How do bacteria eat?

Bacteria are fed in two different ways.
  1. Heterotrophic, or heterotrophic, is the method where bacteria obtain their energy by consuming organic carbon. Most absorb dead organic material, such as decaying meat. Some of these parasites kill their hosts, while others live with them in a relationship called a symbiotic.
  2. Autotrophic (or just autotrophic) bacteria produce their own food, through:
  • Photosynthesis by using the sunlight, they are called photoautotrophic.
    Some types, for example, cyanobacteria, produce oxygen. They are likely to play a vital role in creating oxygen in  Earth’s atmosphere. Others, like heliobacteria, do not produce oxygen.
  • Chemosynthesis is the use of carbon dioxide, water and chemicals such as ammonia, nitrogen, sulfur, and others to make food.
    Those who use chemosynthesis are known as chemoautotrophs. These bacteria are commonly found in oceanic openings and in the roots of legumes, such as alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, and peanuts.

What types of bacteria are found in water?

The presence of bacteria and pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms is a concern when considering the safety of drinking water. Bacterial contamination cannot be detected by sight, smell or taste.

The only way to know if a water supply contains bacteria is to have it tested.

If the human body is exposed to bacteria that the body does not recognize as helpful, the immune system will attack them.

Some types of bacteria can cause diseases in humans, such as cholera, Diptheria, dysentery, bubonic plague, pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), typhoid, and many more. (But these illnesses are not limited to disease-causing organisms in drinking water.)
Today typhoid, hepatitis, and cholera are rarely encountered in the United States.

Coliform bacteria originate in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals and can be found in their wastes. These sources of bacterial contamination include runoff from feedlots, pastures, dog runs, and other land areas where animal wastes are deposited. Additional sources include seepage or discharge from septic tanks, sewage treatment facilities, and natural soil/plant bacteria. Bacteria from these sources can enter wells that are either open at the land surface or do not have water-tight casings or caps.

These coliforms may not cause disease but can be indicators of pathogenic organisms that cause diseases.
Intestinal infections and dysentery are generally considered minor health problems. They can, however, prove fatal to infants, the elderly, and those who are ill.

How do you test for bacteria in water?

Testing for all individual pathogens is impractical and expensive. Instead, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has designated total coliform bacteria as a standard to determine bacterial safety of the water.
They require that all public water suppliers regularly test for coliform bacteria and deliver water that meets the EPA standards.

No specific sanitary significance or health standards have been indicated for non-pathogenic, non-coliform bacteria other than a total heterotrophic bacteria count or standard plate count of < 500 colonies per ml.

For public water supplies, the frequency of testing depends on the size of the population served. Bacteria test results are available from the supplier and there must be a public notification if the water supply does not meet the standard.

For homeowners, we would suggest that your source be tested at least four times per year (quarterly) and then at least annually.
Generally, private water supplies should be tested for bacterial safety as follows:

 

  • at least once a year;
  • when a new well is constructed;
  • when an existing well is returned to service;
  • any time a component of the water system is opened for repair —
  • the water system includes the well, pump, pressure tank, piping,
  • and any other components the water will contact;
  • whenever the well is inundated by floodwaters or surface runoff;
  • whenever bacterial contamination is suspected, as might be
  • indicated by continuing illness; and
  • when a laboratory test indicates high nitrate and human or livestock waste is suspected.
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