Until the late 19th century, it was believed that diseases were spontaneously generated. Then, microscopic observations revealed the existence of tiny living organisms. Scientists began to realize that diseases are in fact created and caused by these so-called 'microorganisms', which have come to be known as germs tiny organisms that are able to enter our bodies without us noticing. In fact, microorganisms are literally everywhere – in the air, water, soil and food we eat, and inside each of us – and while it is now accepted that they are the cause of disease and various illnesses, less than 1% of these microorganisms are actually harmful to humans. Nevertheless, vigilance against these so called ‘germs’ is vital. But what causes microorganisms to appear, and what can be done to prevent them invading our bodies, contaminating food and spreading from place-to-place and person-to-person?
The four main types of invasive microorganism are bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. Bacteria thrive by taking nutrients from their surrounding environment. While bacteria are the cause or trigger for many illnesses and medical conditions, it is important to realize that there are also 'good' bacteria that help our bodies carry out their important functions. In the intestines, for instance, 'good' bacteria work to break down the foods we eat and derive from them the necessary nutrients we need to survive, while converting the remainder to waste. Viruses thrive inside living organisms, such as the human body. There they grow and reproduce, effectively capturing healthy cells and taking them over before destroying them. Viruses are the cause of many common diseases and ailments, both minor and serious. Viruses are even thought to be a contributory cause of cancer. Fungi are multi-celled plant-like organisms that thrive in warm, damp environments. Unlike other plants, fungi derive nutrients from plants, people and animals, rather than from water, soil and air. Protozoa are single-celled organisms that spread infections through water and cause conditions such as diarrhea, belly pain and nausea.
Bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa are common place, and nearly-everyone has suffered from one or more of them at some time or another. It is important to realize that while they may seem trivial, invasion from one of these microorganisms can lead to very serious medical problems. Symptoms range from nausea, vomiting, fever, cough, abdominal cramping and some may even lead to death if left untreated.
Tips and comments
The obvious way to protect yourself against germs is to practice good hygiene. That means, wash your hands regularly, before and after preparing food and after eating, and after using the bathroom and so on. Soap and water are simple yet effective way to combat different types of germs. You should wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least fifteen seconds. Also make sure you bathe and shower regularly. Be careful when you cough or sneeze, and cover your mouth and nose, otherwise you will send tiny droplets of germs into the air that will spread your infection. A healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise regimen will also help by keeping your immune system strong thus having a strong resistance against the effects of microorganisms.
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