By Erika, age 13

Most people don’t have positive opinions about bacteria. Take E. coli as an example. It is known for getting onto foods like lettuce and causing food poisoning. But has anyone ever tried to find a beneficial quality of E. coli? It might seem meaningless and without a purpose, but it’s like accusing a person of a serious crime without giving them a lawyer. Here are the facts for and against bacteria that you will need.

Microbes are everywhere! There are many different types in people’s stomachs, mouths, and hands. And yes, there are some on toilets, but there are even more on a door knob! Different animals have their own microbiomes in their stomachs, and everyone’s guts are unique. These are just a few specific places to find different microbes, but they are just about everywhere you go.

gutsy_micro_dude-198x300Microbes are very diverse and there are too many species to count. However, some bacteria have negative effects on humans and cause disease. These bacteria are called pathogens. However, pathogens only make up less than 1% of all microbes. To learn about some different types in a fun way, the American Museum of Natural History created a card game called Gutsy, in honor of their new exhibit, “The Secret World Inside You”. It is kid friendly and can be played by up to 4 people.

Contrary to popular belief, microbes are beneficial for the most part! Both water and land environments rely on the activity of bacteria. These microbes are located in the soil and cycle nutrients such as nitrogen, sulfur, and carbon. When dead animals rot, they contain carbon and decomposers help recycle it. Microbes are symbiotic in humans and there are ten times more microbial than human cells in our bodies. Some types of bacteria live in our stomachs and help us digest food. Others live in cheese and give it an earthy taste. These bacteria are similar to the ones that give off foot odor.

Now, the case is complete and you are the judge. Are microbes guilty or not guilty? Overall, I believe these micro organisms are beneficial. Do you?