Microbiology means the study of microbes or microorganisms, which are defined by Wikepedia as “any microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell (unicellular), cell clusters or no cell at all (acellular)”. Microbiology testing covers a wide range of studied subjects including but not limited to bacteria, fungi, parasites, algae, enzymes and viruses.
Although we often fear microorganisms because of their association with so many human illnesses, there are as many that are beneficial. Our bodies depend on microorganisms in the form of good bacteria to help us digest food. Microorganisms are at least in part responsible for ridding of our planet of waste. And probiotics and prebiotics are thought to improve our health by helping our digestive system.
But when we think about microbiology testing, we are usually not thinking of the good microorganisms, but rather the bad ones such as those that cause serious human illness.
For example, tetanus and botulism are both caused by microorganisms. The Black Death, one of the most devastating epidemics in history is theorized to have been caused by a microbe. The predominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis.
Although most don’t cause diseases, a strain of the microbe clostridia is responsible for causing serious illness such as tetanus and botulism. On the other hand, it was recently discovered that clostridia may be able to target cancer tumors effectively in people who seem to be resistant to traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer. We can see then that this particular microbe can have both good and bad effects.
Not only does microbiology testing involve study of a wide range of subject, it also covers a wide range of testing media, such as water, food, air, soil, animals and the human body. It is so closely associated with study of the immune system that many colleges offer a dual degree in microbiology and immunology.
All this means that the area of microbiology is incredibly complex and there are many branches of microbiology and microbiology testing. There are specialized microbiologists in medicine, pharmacy, food and agriculture, veterinary medicine, and our environment, air and water.
Medical microbiology testing
Medical microbiology is the study of microbial germs such as viruses, bacterium, parasites and fungi. Generally, the human body offers a natural defense against these microbes in the form of our immune system and helpful bacteria. Medical microbiology is closely tied to the human immune system.
Pharmaceutical microbiology testing
Pharmaceutical microbiology is related to the testing of antibiotics, enzymes, vitamins and vaccines
Food & agriculture microbiology testing
Food microbiology studies the microorganisms involved in spoiling foods and illnesses related to spoiling foods. Agriculture microbiology involves the study of plant and soil microorganisms.
Veterinary microbiology testing
Veterinary microbiologists study disease caused by microorganisms in animals.
Environmental, water and air microbiology testing
This includes the study of the role of microorganisms in our environment. Water microbiology studies microorganisms in water.
Water microbiology testing includes such microbes as colliform bacteria, e. coli and other microorganisms involved in fecal contamination.
Air microbiology testing is concerned with the quality of our air. For example, mold is a microorganism that can cause problems with our health if we’re exposed to too much of it. Microbiology testing our home’s air quality for the presence of mold spores can help protect our health and the health of anyone who comes into our home.
As we can see, microbiology is a vast and extremely important field, with important impact on our health and the health of our planet. It is vital in disease identification and even prevention. And it’s also important to water safety, food production, fermentation and in waste management. There are in fact not many areas of our existence that it doesn’t influence.