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Micro-organisms (and viruses)

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A bacterium is a unicellular microorganism.


  • There are around five nonillion (5 × 1030) bacteria in the world. (Wikipedia)
  • There are 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in the human body, and about 100 times the bacterial DNA (e.g. see the Ted Talk)
  • There estimated to be more than 500 species living at any one time in an adult intestine ( Scientific American )
  • "The infestation begins at birth: Babies ingest mouthfuls of bacteria during birthing and pick up plenty more from their mother's skin and milk—during breast-feeding, the mammary glands become colonized with bacteria. "Our interaction with our mother is the biggest burst of microbes that we get," says Gary Huffnagle, a microbiologist and internist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. And that's just for starters: Throughout our lives, we consume bacteria in our food and water "and who knows where else," Huffnagle says. Scientific American
  • "Before birth, the human intestinal tract is sterile, but babies immediately begin to acquire the microbial denizens of the gut from their environment -- the birth canal, mothers' breast, and even the touch of a sibling or parent. Within days, a thriving microbial community is established and by adulthood, the human body typically has as many as ten times more microbial cells than human cells." Science Daily




A virus is a microscopic particle that can infect the cells of a biological organism. Viruses can only replicate themselves by infecting a host cell and therefore cannot reproduce on their own.


Are viruses living organisms? It has been argued extensively whether viruses are living organisms. Most virologists consider them non-living, as they do not meet all the criteria of the generally accepted definition of life. They are similar to obligate intracellular parasites as they lack the means for self-reproduction outside a host cell, but unlike parasites, viruses are generally not considered to be true living organisms. A definitive answer is still elusive because some organisms considered to be living exhibit characteristics of both living and non-living particles, as viruses do.


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