Microorganisms are beneficial to us in many different ways. Saccharomyces
cerevisiae is a yeast found on grapes that can be used to make bread, wine, and
beer (fermentation). Scientists are working on developing it into a probiotic.
It can also help to treat diarrhea and colitis. Another microbe that is beneficial
to our health is Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus are the main organisms in yogurt
and they also live in the human gut and vagina. Like S. cerevisiae they can
help with diarrhea, they also help to relieve milk allergies and can possibly
treat inflammatory bowel diseases. Bacteriophage is another microbe that has an
impact on human health. Phage is a virus that puts its DNA into certain
bacterium. Phages have a very specific adhesion factor and only adhere to a
certain bacterial strand. Each phage is so specialized to particular bacterial
strands that scientists can use them to identify and classify bacteria (phage
typing). Scientists linked fluorescent dye to the DNA of phages of Salmonella and
used them to identify Salmonella species. This is beneficial to us because it
can be used to detect contamination, in our water sources, our food.
Steinernema are microscopic unsegmented roundworms (nematode
worm) that prey on insects. They kill their prey by climbing inside them and releasing
a mutualistic bacterial symbiont, Xenorhabdus. Agriculturally they can be used
by farmers to kill insects, without harming their crops or animals like
pesticide would. This also benefits humans because we won’t have to handle
poison or worry about contaminating our food with it.
Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) is a storage molecule and energy
source for gram-negative bacteria. PHB can have a huge impact on our
environment because these molecules are actually rather versatile plastics. Scientists
have been able to manipulate the bacteria into creating more PHB by depriving
them of certain essential elements causing them to turn sugar to PHB. Petrochemically made plastic and PHB actually have
similar properties except PHB is completely biodegradable. Using PHB instead of
petrochemically produced plastic would reduce the amount of oil we use and impact
our environment in a tremendous way. We can replace the plastic (made by oil)
with PHB that way our planet and oceans won’t be filled with plastic that will
be around for hundreds of years.