Types of Microbes in Microbiology
While there are many, many different types of microbes that occupy the invisible spaces around us, they typically fall into a handful of categories: bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, and algae.
Bacteria are unicellular, or single-cell, organisms that are independently reproducing. While they are very structurally simple, they function in a very complex way. Bacteria form the basis for all life on Earth. A vast majority of bacteria are beneficial to their environment and play a variety of important roles in their ecosystem such as recycling nutrients, breaking down toxic compounds, and many others.
While a majority of bacteria are innocuous and even important, there are also many bacterial infections that can cause harm to humans and other living beings.
GIDEON currently follows 129 bacterial diseases, tracing their impact across the globe.
Viruses are submicroscopic infectious agents that are only able to reproduce inside living cells of other organisms. Viruses can infect all types of life forms including animals, humans, and even other microbes such as bacteria and archaea.
Viruses can be found in every single ecosystem on Earth and are believed to be the most numerous type of biological entities on our planet.
Because viruses reproduce differently from other microorganisms, the treatment of viral infections requires a different approach than bacterial infections.
GIDEON currently follows 110 viral diseases daily, in 235 countries and territories.
Fungi can be either single-celled or complex multicellular organisms. They can be found in many different ecosystems and habitats but are typically found on land in soil or organic plant matter.
Some fungi are parasitic on plants and can cause mildews, rusts, scabs, and cankers. Fungal infections can be a major issue for farmers and can lead to major financial losses.
A very small number of fungi can cause diseases in animals and humans. For humans, these diseases most often afflict the skin and cause conditions such as ringworm, athletes’ foot, and thrush.
While many fungal diseases are considered minor, fungal invasions that have been allowed to develop into multi-system infections can be detrimental and even take decades to recover from. For example, many fungi that affect the lungs are particularly dangerous.
One fungus, Candida aura, is particularly dangerous as it thrives in humans and can spread very quickly. It is also resistant to all three major antifungal medicines making outbreaks a serious situation.
GIDEON currently documents 26 fungal diseases across the globe.
Protozoa are single-celled organisms that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some protozoa, such as paramecium, are a fixed and complex shape while others, such as amoeba, are amorphous and can change their shape.
Protozoa are mobile microbes and can move using tiny, hair-like cilia, long tails called flagella, and amoeboid movement where the protozoa change shape to propel themselves forward.
There are some protozoa that are parasitic, meaning they feed off of other plants, animals, and even humans. These protozoa can also cause diseases in humans. For example, the protozoa plasmodium is responsible for causing malaria.
Some other particularly dangerous protozoan diseases include the infamous “brain-eating amoeba” Naeglaria fowleri and the incredibly serious Balamuthia mandrillaris, which carries a case-fatality rate of over 90%.
GIDEON currently catalogs information on 21 protozoan diseases.
Algae come in a variety of different structures. It can be single-celled, linked together in long chains, or made up of many cells. A majority of algae types live in fresh or seawater and either float freely or are attached to the bottom.
Many algae can also grow on soil or rocks if there is enough moisture present. Because algae contain chlorophyll, they are able to create their own food using the process of photosynthesis.
Human consumption of seafood affected by harmful algal blooms can potentially cause illnesses such as Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP), Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP), and Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP).
Algae that are members of the genus Prototheca are particularly harmful to humans, Prototheca blaschkeae being particularly dangerous. Protothecosis can cause diarrhea, weight loss, weakness, inflammation of the eye (uveitis), retinal detachment, ataxia, and seizures. Chlorellosis is a similar condition caused by an infection of Chlorella, a type of micro-algae that contains high amounts of chloroplasts.
GIDEON currently catalogs five species of Prototheca, complete with descriptions and where they’re typically found.