School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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Beneficial Bacteria

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  • Microbiome: the community of microorganisms that live inside and/or on your body.
  • Probiotic: food or another substance that helps to replenish microorganisms in specific parts of the body.

Bacteria are the most abundant form of life on the planet. They are found in most every environment, from Antarctic ice, to boiling hydrothermal vents, to inside your stomach. Most of these do not hurt us. Actually, many of these organisms are very important to our survival.

Bacteria help many animals to digest food, they help trees grow, and they are important in the recycling of nutrients in the environment. They are also used in biotechnology applications to produce everything from food to energy to clean water.

Uses for good bacteria

You also have good bacteria within and on your own body. Did you know that you have ten times more bacterial cells in your body than you have human cells? Most of these bacteria are in your digestive system.
 
There, they help to digest substances that the human body cannot break down, like many carbohydrates and things called short chain fatty acids. It is important that we keep this population healthy. Eating probiotics can help to replenish good gut bacteria. On the other hand, taking unnecessary antibiotics can hurt this community. When this happens, we often get symptoms like diarrhea or stomach pain.

Images via Wikimedia Commons. Bacteroides image by PD-USGOV-HHS-CDC.
Bacteroides Fragilis

Many bacteria like this Bacteroides species live in the human gut and aid in digestion of food.

 

This activity has a companion experiment Let the Germs Begin.

 

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Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

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Bacteroides Fragilis

Many bacteria like this Bacteroides species live in the human gut and aid in digestion of food.

 

This activity has a companion experiment Let the Germs Begin.

 

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.