You have seen several kinds of plants and animals. However, there are other living organisms around us which we normally cannot see. These are called microorganisms or microbes. For example, you might have observed that during the rainy season moist bread gets spoilt and its surface gets covered with greyish white patches. Observe these patches through a magnifying glass. You will see tiny, black rounded structures. Do you know what these structures are and where do these come from? microorganisms or microbes are so small in size that they cannot be seen with the unaided eye. Some of these, such as the fungus that grows on bread, can be seen with a magnifying glass. Others cannot be seen without the help of a microscope. That is why these are called microorganisms or microbes. Microorganisms are classified into four major groups. These groups are bacteria, fungi, protozoa and some algae. Some of these common microorganisms are shown further in the chapter.
TYPES OF MICROORGANISMS
Bacteria are microscopic single-celled organisms that thrive in diverse environments. They can live within soil, in the ocean and inside the human gut. Humans' relationship with bacteria is complex. Sometimes they lend a helping hand, by curdling milk into yogurt, or helping with our digestion. At other times they are destructive, causing diseases like pneumonia and MRSA.
• Based on the relative complexity of their cells, all living organisms are broadly classified as either prokaryotes or eukaryotes.
• Bacteria are prokaryotes. The entire organism consists of a single cell with a simple internal structure. Unlike eukaryotic DNA, which is neatly packed into a cellular compartment called the nucleus, bacterial DNA floats free, in a twisted thread-like mass called the nucleoid.
• Bacterial cells also contain separate, circular pieces of DNA called plasmids. Bacteria lack membrane-bound organelles, specialized cellular structures that are designed to execute a range of cellular functions from energy production to the transport of proteins. However, both bacterial and eukaryotic cells contain ribosomes. These spherical units are where proteins are assembled from individual amino acids, using the information encoded in a strand of messenger RNA.
• On the outside, bacterial cells are generally surrounded by two protective coverings: an outer cell wall and an inner cell membrane. However, certain bacteria, like the mycoplasmas do not have a cell wall at all. Some bacteria may even have a third, outermost, protective layer called the capsule. Lastly, bacterial surfaces can be covered by whip-like extensions: flagella or pili.
TAKE A LOOK AT THE INSIDE OF BACTERIA.