Most Exciting Research in Microbiology

Fri May 12 04:47:55 EST 1995

     I suggest that the discussion will be better, if we distinguish
the parts of the theme: 1. Place of Microbes; 2. Role of Microbes;
3. Pleasure and Excitement with Microbiology.
     1.1. The NUMBER of microbial individuals is more high than the
sum of all others through the world.
     1.2. The total BIOMASS of microbes (including oceans, marine
sediments, soils, intestinal tracts, etc.) is more big than total
biomass of other organisms.
     1.3. The environmental CONDITIONS where they are distributed
are the most incredible (high pressure, temperature >100 C, 10 %
sulphuric acid, etc.).
     1.4. In theory - the LIFE-SPAN of microbial cell has no limit.
("Long Live for King Procaryote!")
     1.5. The number of different species - BIODIVERSITY of microbes
- is more wide than systematic spectra of "higher" Kingdoms. You can
find that "the number of KNOWN bacterial species is equal 2 % only".
This figure is based on the fact that 2 % (or less) of water/soil
bacteria only can be grown in "standard" nutrient media. ("There are
three kinds of lie: a lie, an impudent lie, and the statistics".) I
doubt that each cultivated cell has belonged to other species. What
is the real number of species? - God knows.
     1.6. I'm not very religious man but I ask my colleagues to pay
kindly their attention to the Bible/Old Testament text. God introduced
animals, birds, etc. to the first man Adam, and declared him the
Lord of the creatures. The microbes were not introduced but, as well,
God used them sending pests to Pharaoh. Thus, microbes are not the
servants of Man.
     No need to explain the biogeochemical role of microorganisms to
professional microbologists (turnover of carbon, nitrogen, etc.). I
work with biogeochemical cycle of sulphur and its application.
     I want to remind only that some food (tissues of vegetables and
mushrooms, etc.) cannot be digested by a humane with no microbes.
     3.1. Some microbiologists work not for excitement and pleasure:
they make a work useful for mankind, it is a normal social status,
and - more or less - normal salary. (I don't belong to this group
because in my State the status of worker is more honourable than
status of scientist, and salary of seller is more high than salary
of Ph.D. Professor.)
     3.2. Biochemists imagine microbial cell as a bag with cata-
     I belong to the old school: a bacterium is neither bug nor pet
but a very small animal, "das Tierchen". I'd like to quotate canadi-
an writer Stephen Leacock (1869-1944): "Take the question of germs
and bacilli. Don't be scared of them. I had a bacillus once, called
Fido, that would come and lie at my feet while I was working. I ne-
ver knew a more affectionate companion, and when it was run over by
an automobile, I buried it in the garden with genuine sorrow."
     It wonders me: what imagine genetic engineers working with
bacteria. May be, some of them have psychologic (Freud-)complexes.
     3.3. I enjoy to work with bacteria because - for me - microbio-
logy is amusing field of partnership of humanes and microbes.

     Mikhail Vainshtein         *    A Microb of Petri dishes
                                *    Had very original wishes:
                                *    It was his dream
                                *    To live in cream
                                *    'Cause MacConkey's broth
                                *             isn't delicious.

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