Microbes and Diseases

Microbes have a bad reputation since some of them are pathogenic organisms that infect our bodies, cause disease, some times with lethal effects. Infectious diseases affect humans directly, but also indirectly as 'economic' factors when causing diseases in life stock animals and crops. Agricultural economy is very sensitive to pathogens and this fact causes other related problems that we have to deal with - use of pesticides, fertilizers, and the attempt of reducing those by employing genetically modified organisms that have built-in resistance against microbes or bad weather.

An agricultural pest that resurfaces periodically is foot and mouth disease (FMD), and novel human diseases, so called emerging diseases, of recent importance are AIDS and SARS. All three examples are viral diseases and can serve as model systems to discuss the cause and origin of new diseases, as well as the political implication, both for societal questions but more directly for the dealing with health problems and the workings of the modern biomedical industry. Occasionally, success stories of eradications such as polio demonstrate a willingness to fight preventable diseases (note: success means that instead of millions of infections each year, only hundreds or a few thousands of cases are known worldwide).

Microbes are of course not by definition detrimental to human health and life, in the contrary, a majority is beneficial for all higher life forms including plants and animals. They are the primary provider of all essential molecular components of life. Indeed, the metabolic diversity of microbial organisms is astonishing and far from completely described, discovered, and understood.

Information on microbes and microbiology

Microbes.info The Microbiology Information Portal.
ASM The American Society for Microbiology - Microbe Library
Microbial Life Educational Resources
Bioethics Recources The National Institute of Health (NIH)

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