Microorganisms (microbes) are organisms that are too small to be seen with naked eyes. They are all around us in enormous numbers and are present both on and within our bodies. Some, termed pathogens, cause disease; others are beneficial and are of commercial importance but the vast majority are harmless.
In the world of microorganisms there exist a large variety of species each exhibiting distinctive features e.g., shape, size, appearance, nutritional requirements, metabolic capacities, and genetic attributes. By taking into consideration these shared properties; microorganisms can be grouped into bacteria, fungi, protozoa, chlamydia, blue-green algae, rickettsia mycoplasmas, and viruses (though not actually considered a living organism).
Microorganisms can be essential, passively beneficial, or positively useful. Despite the use of microorganisms in industry and the increasing recognition of their benefits, it is still the case that the main pharmaceutical interest in microorganisms is in killing them or, at least, restricting their contamination and spoilage of medicines.
This article, therefore, focuses on general benefits of microorganisms, pharmaceutical applications of microorganisms as well as the harmful effects of microorganisms.
The general benefits of microorganisms and uses
1. Microorganisms play an essential role in carbon and nitrogen cycles.
2. Microorganisms are used in brewing industries to manufacture beer, shandy, wine, and a variety of alcoholic beverages and in the dairy and food industries to make cheese and yogurt.
3. Microorganisms are used in the manufacture of several industrial solvents and other chemicals.
4. Microorganisms or the toxins they produce can be used as alternatives to chemical insecticides.
5. Microorganisms have been heavily exploited for waste treatment and bioremediation. They have been used in the treatment of domestic and industrial effluents or wastes
by lowering the biological oxidation demand (BOD), and chemical oxidation demand (COD).
6. Microorganisms help in the maintenance of good farmland by keeping and sustaining a reasonable and regular presence of microbes in it.
7. They are also used in chemical detoxification and in oil extraction.
8. Microorganisms such as bacteria adapted to live in hot springs can be harvested and used in the manufacture of biological detergent.
Pharmaceutical applications of microorganisms
1. Microorganisms (e.g., bacteria and fungi) are used in the manufacture of antibiotics, steroids, therapeutic enzymes, polysaccharides, vaccines, and many products of recombinant DNA technology.
2. They are used in assays to measure antibiotic concentrations.
3. Microorganism can be used as biological indicators of sterilization.
4. Microorganism are used in tests to detect metabolic disorders and mutagenicity ( e.g., Ames mutagenicity test)
Read Also: Microorganisms of Pharmaceutical Interest
Problems and disadvantages of microorganisms
Listed below are some of the harmful effects of microorganisms.
1. Microorganisms cause infections and other noninfectious diseases (e.g., gastric ulcers and some cancers)
2. Harmless species may transmit or provide a reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes.
3. Microorganism may cause pyrogenic reactions (fever) when introduced into the body even in the absence of infection.
4. Microorganisms may contaminate and spoil non-sterile and sterile medicines with a risk of infection.
- Hanlon, G. and Hodges, N. (2013). Essential Microbiology for Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
- Kar, A, (2008). Pharmaceutical Microbiology. New Delhi: New Age International (P) Ltd., Publishers.
- Okore, V. (2009). Principles of Pharmaceutical Microbiology (2nd). Nigeria: Ephrata Publishers.
Advantages and disadvantages of microorganisms: This article Advantages and disadvantages of microorganisms answers the following questions What are the advantages of microorganisms? What are the 10 uses of microorganisms? What are the negative effects of microorganisms? etc