11 Reasons to Love Bacteria, Fungi and Spores

From medicines to jet fuel, we have so many reasons to celebrate the microbes we live with every day

Penicillin: a fuzzy little life saver. (Guntars Grebezs/iStock)
smithsonianmag.com

Modern society seems to have gone germophobic—say the word "bacteria" and most people will immediately conjure images of nasty illnesses and dangerous infections. But bacteria, fungi and other microbes underpin some of the most fundamental cycles of life and death on this planet. What's more, all kinds of beneficial microbes can be used to construct self-repairing buildings, to power batteries, to solve murder investigations and even to fight off deadly diseases.

In short, microbes are amazing, and here are just some of the ones that deserve to be celebrated:

Healthy Eating

Our guts are a veritable battlefield of microbial good and evil, and each year people guzzle gallons of yogurts and drinks packed with probiotics, such as varieties of Lactobacillus, to boost the numbers of good bacteria, beat the bad, aid digestion and give other health benefits. Some probiotics can also reduce the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, a disease with an as-yet unknown cause that produces inflammation and ulcers in the colon and rectum. The Lactobacillus reuteri in human breast milk has an anti-gas effect on colicky infants, according to a study from the University of Bologna. And without the curdling effects of related healthy bacteria such as Lactococcus lactis, we wouldn´t have dairy products to enjoy with a glass of fine wine—imagine a world without Brie or Camembert.

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