There is a all around you that you cannot see. Billions of tiny creature slither and slide over tables and floors. They float and wiggle in drops of water. They stick your skin. Sometimes they get in your eyes, nose, and throat.
You can see most of these tiny things only you put them under a microscope. These tiny life forms are called microscopic life or microorganisms. They are also called microbe. Most microbe are made of just one cell. Your body, by contrast, has billions of cells.
Scientists use powerful microscope to study and photo-graph microscopic life. This scanning probe microscope can magnify an image as much as 100 million times!
KINDS OF MICROBES
There are thousands of different kinds of microbes. Microbes called bacteria are the smallest living things. Bacteria live almost everywhere on land, in water, and even inside you.
Some microscopic life forms are like plants. Tiny diatoms are microbes that live in lakes and the ocean. Diatoms soak up sunlight and use its energy to make food, just like plants.
Some microscopic life forms are more like animals. Protozoa such as the amoeba and paramecium are animal-like microorganisms. An amoeba can move by changing the shape of its body. It sticks out a pseudo pod, or false foot. A paramecium is covered with tiny hairs. It waves its hairs rapidly to swim.
Viruses are another kind of microbe. Viruses sometimes act like living things and other time act like nonliving things. Viruses sometimes live in the cells of plants and animals. Inside a cell, a virus reproduces like a living thing. The virus uses the cell to make many copies of itself. Viruses are too small to see with an ordinary microscope. You need a powerful electron microscope to see a virus. Outside of a plant animal cell, a virus is like nonliving thing.
Are Microbes Harmful?
Some microbes are harmful. Some microbes are helpful. Protozoa called plasmodium cause a serious disease called malaria. Some bacteria and viruses can make you sick. We sometimes call these microbes germs.
Harmful bacteria can make food spoil you can get sick to your stomach if you eat the food. Some harmful bacteria can cause an infection in a cut sore. Others cause pneumonia colds. They also cause very serious disease such as rabies, polio, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).