Are bacteria intelligent

Pathogens: 7 exciting and understandable facts about bacteria

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There are thousands of species and they can cause or participate in a wide variety of diseases. We often think of bacteria as microscopic monsters. In many cases, at least, that's how they are portrayed. But are the pathogens really independent living beings?

Bacteria are not that small

Bacteria are pretty big. At least when you compare them to viruses. Because the bacteria are up to a micrometer in size. It is still microscopic and invisible to the naked eye, but it is a hundred times larger than viruses are. Viruses cannot be seen in a normal light microscope, but bacteria can.

Bacteria are living things

The genetic material and the cytoplasm of the bacteria are located within what is known as the cell wall. Bacteria have their own metabolism that is regulated by the cytoplasm. What is somewhat complicated here is reminiscent of biology lessons, in plain language: Bacteria have their own metabolism and, unlike viruses, can therefore be classified as separate living beings. Through what is known as cell division, they can also reproduce themselves, while viruses need a host.

Bacteria are numerous - and intelligent

Bacteria could be considered intelligent. This means that their overall structure is much more complex than viruses, for example. Due to its more complex structure, a bacterium also needs longer to multiply than its fellow pathogen virus. Even if bacteria multiply somewhat more slowly than viruses, they are at least numerically superior to them. About 7,000 types of bacteria are currently known.

That makes bacteria dangerous

If you want to be very specific, it is actually not the small microorganisms themselves that are dangerous to human health, but the danger of disease comes from the toxins that bacteria produce. These are also called toxins. For example, there are bacteria that already produce their poison in a food, whose ingestion with the food can then lead to typical symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. Other bacteria, on the other hand, only release their toxins directly in the human body.

There are also good bacteria

By no means all bacteria release pathogenic toxins. On the contrary: we are dependent on many useful bacteria. Some of them have important functions, such as helping our digestion or maintaining an intimate balance in the female genital area. In addition, certain beneficial bacteria are necessary for the body's vitamin production and they are involved in the formation of the happiness hormone serotonin.

Bacteria have been less of a threat since the 1940s

According to the Robert Koch Institute, diseases caused by bacteria were still the leading cause of death around the world in the 19th century. Bacteria did not lose their extraordinary horror until the 20th century. Namely through the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming, which came into medical use in the 1940s. Since then, antibiotics have saved countless lives as one of the most important medical advances in modern medicine.

They are used today for inflammation of the bronchi or sinuses caused by bacteria. They should not be taken hastily, because antibiotics also affect the above-mentioned good bacteria, for example in the intestines. Increased, unnecessary or incorrect use can also lead to resistance. One speaks of this in medicine when bacteria have learned to become insensitive to a certain antibiotic.

This is how the bacteria were discovered

Bacteria were made visible for the first time as early as 1676 - that year the Dutch naturalist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek discovered them under one of his self-made microscopes. He did not know which living beings the observed microbes, which he referred to as "little animals", were. But it would take another two centuries before bacteria became of central importance in the field of medicine, among other things through the discovery of the tuberculosis bacterium by Robert Koch in 1882.

Summary on bacteria

Here you will find a brief overview of the amazing bacteria facts:

Size of bacteria

Bacteria can only be seen under a microscope, but they are about a hundred times larger than viruses.

Multiplication of bacteria

In contrast to viruses, bacteria can multiply on their own.

Types of bacteria

About 7,000 different types of bacteria are currently known.

Toxins in bacteria

Toxins are toxins that bacteria produce and ultimately make you sick.

Good bacteria

Bacteria can also be useful. "Good" bacteria can be found in the intestinal flora or in the female genital area.

Antibiotics against bacteria

Antibiotics can help with bacterial diseases, but should not be used carelessly due to the risk of resistance.

Discovery of the bacteria

Bacteria were already described in the 17th century, but they did not acquire medical significance until two centuries later.

Source: The Big "Little Difference", Dr. Doris Simhofer, Vegetable, special magazine of the netdoktor editorial team, spring 2020 (p. 12-13)

Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Health-related Assessment of Bacteria, (accessed on 08.10.20)

Robert Koch: The co-founder of microbiology, (accessed on October 11, 2020)