What is a bacterium?
Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that are enormously important to the human body. Unlike viruses, bacteria can keep themselves alive. In addition, a bacterium can multiply itself by splitting in two. About a kilo of our body weight is made up of bacteria. Most of the bacteria carried by a human being are in our intestines and another large part is on the skin. For example, these bacteria help us absorb vitamins and regulate digestion. But there are also bacteria that do make people sick such as:
- Escherichia coli
- Staphylococcus aureus
Are bacteria dangerous?
When harmful bacteria are on a product or person, it cannot be seen or smelled. Paying close attention to hygiene can prevent infection. Washing hands before, during and after eating already makes a big difference. When a person becomes seriously ill from a bacterium, it can lead to miscarriage in pregnant women, meningitis, bloodstream infections and reduction of kidney function. What makes the bacteria especially difficult to fight is that some variants are resistant to antibiotics. Laboratory testing can find out which antibiotics do work.
Bacteria can multiply at a great rate with the right conditions. At room temperature, as many as millions of bacteria can form from one bacterium in about 7 hours. The best conditions for bacteria are:
- Temperatures between 10 °C and 40 °C. Below freezing, the bacteria no longer divide but go into hibernation. At temperatures above 75°C, bacteria die. This is when you cook food for example
- Food sources such as carbohydrates and proteins. This can include chicken, meat, fruit, vegetables, desserts and salad
- Damp and dark environments