Microbiology refers to the in-depth study of various types of microscopically-small living organisms which inhabit the Earth. These include bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, eukaryotes, algae, archaea, prions and are collectively known as microbes. These organisms differ significantly from each other concerning their size and unique characteristics. However, these microbes constitute almost 60% of the entire living matter present on the Earth. Unfortunately, these microbes are virtually impossible for human beings to see except under the lens of a microscope in a laboratory.
Steven Rindner–Why is microbiology so crucial in solving global challenges?
Steven Rindner is a major in Biology student from New York who aspires to pursue a career in microbiology. According to him, people have negative connotations about microbes because of their close association with infectious diseases. However, they often overlook that these microbes are essential to all living life-forms on the Earth. Versatile microorganisms play a significant role in many critical biochemical processes. These include climate change, causes of diseases, bio-degradation, epidemiology, bio-deterioration, food spoilage, and biotechnology.
By cultivating microbes under laboratory conditions, microbiology specialists harness their enormous power for beneficial use in diverse areas. These include global healthcare, reversing the effects of pollutions, discovering new biofuel sources, ensuring sustainable agriculture, and maintaining food production.
In general, experts specializing in microbiology strive to solve the complex problems affecting human beings. These include the health of these people, their environment, food supply, climate, and agricultural productivity. Depending on the organizations which hire these specialists, they perform the following functions:
- Studying the diagnosis, control, and means of preventing infectious diseases,
- Ensuring humans have access to abundant food and clean drinking water,
- Understanding the critical roles microbes play in causing climate change, and
- Developing innovative green technologies.
Role of microbiology in the field of medicine
Microbiologists have made and continue to make significant breakthroughs in medicine. Some of the most notable are:
- The discovery of penicillin and the invention of smallpox vaccines,
- The primary causes of life-threatening epidemic diseases like cholera, anthrax, and tuberculosis, and
- The connection between the Helicobacter pylori infection and various forms of stomach ulcers.
Even today, many microbiologists work in hospitals and medical research centers worldwide. They monitor the diagnosis, treatment, and ways to prevent infectious diseases among the general public. They coordinate the efforts of the hospital staff in collecting blood, urine, swab samples to diagnose a particular contagious infection. These experts identify the pathogens responsible for causing and spreading the disease among humans through various laboratory tests. Then, they come up with the appropriate treatments to destroy these pathogens to cure patients suffering from the infections. Many of them closely monitor the patients’ conditions when they undergo the treatment.
According to Steven Rindner, microbiology will play a central role in finding solutions to many global challenges. These include maintaining adequate food supplies, energy security, and access to clean drinking water to an ever-growing population inhabiting the Earth, ensuring a healthy planet in the process.