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Organisms which can be viewed only under microscopes and are not visible to naked eye are called as microorganisms or microbes. Microorganisms are either unicellular or multicellular and either lives alone or in colonies. Microorganisms are found everywhere in the environment, in ponds, lakes, air, food, inside our bodies and in other non-living entities.

Classification of microorganisms:

Microorganisms are majorly classified into bacteria, fungi, protozoa and algae. Another class of microorganisms is virus, which live and reproduce only when they are within a cell of host organism like bacteria, plant and animal. Viruses multiply rapidly and cause harm to the host cell. Some of the common diseases caused by virus are common flu by influenza virus, chicken pox and polio.

Beneficial microorganisms:

Microorganisms are beneficial in different ways and are used for various commercial purposes.

·         Microorganisms are used in preparation of yoghurt, beer, wine, bread and vinegar. The process of converting sugar into alcohol with the help of microorganisms is known as fermentation.

·         Microorganisms contribute majorly in cleaning up the environment by decomposing the kitchen garbage, dead matter into manure and cleaning the oil spills in the environment.

·         Microorganisms like bacteria and blur green algae help in nitrogen fixation of the soil, thus increasing the fertility of the soil. Hence they are called as biological nitrogen fixers.

·         Microorganisms like fungi and bacteria are used commercially to produce antibiotics, which help in killing or arresting the growth of pathogens present in the body.

·         Live and attenuated microorganisms are used as vaccines for various diseases like small pox, polio, cholera, tuberculosis, chicken pox and hepatitis.

·         Microbes can be used to preserve fruits, vegetables for a longer period of time.

Harmful microorganisms:

·         Microorganisms that cause disease are called as pathogens. These pathogens enter our body through food, water or air and reproduce rapidly inside our body causing diseases in our body. These diseases are otherwise known as communicable diseases. For example, cholera, chicken pox, common flu.

·         Some microorganisms and insects carry the blood or saliva from unhealthy disease carrying individuals and pass it to other health individuals through openings such as unhealed wounds present in our body. Such diseases are known as carrier diseases. Example of carrier diseases is malaria and dengue.

·         Microorganisms cause diseases in both plants and animals as well. In animals, diseases like anthrax and foot and mouth disease in cattle are caused by bacteria. In plants, diseases like tobacco mosaic, citrus canker in oranges are caused by bacteria.

·         Microorganisms are also responsible for spoiling the food by producing toxins. Intake of this food further results in food poisoning in humans.

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