Microbes are tiny organisms. There are many different types and they live all around us. Microbes were the first forms of life and have been around for over three billion years.
Although microbes are extremely tiny, they make up more than half the biomass on Earth (about 90% of the biomass in the oceans), we have only identified less than one percent of microbe species, and they shape our environment in profound ways. Microbes produce at least half of the oxygen in our atmosphere, are critical in decomposition, and are the foundation of every food chain.
There are 400 different types of microbes in the human gut, which is trillions of individuals. They make up about 3 to 5 pounds of your body weight. The number of individual microbes in your body outnumbers the cells by ten to one.
Without microbes we wouldn’t have beer, cheese, yogurt, bread, chocolate, soy sauce, wine, and vinegar; legumes would not be able to fix nitrogen in soil to enrich it; and, we would not be able to digest many foods and would not be able to produce vitamin K. Microbes also help clean up oil spills, convert methane, and provide many other beneficial services.
Of course, some microbes are bad for us, but they are far outnumbered by the microbes that help us or are completely indifferent to us. The beneficial microbes in our bodies help fight infections and provide antibiotics and other medicines.
So, the next time you hear a statistic about how many microbes are on your toilet seat… Just remember how many microbes there are in the world. Of course they are there, they are all around us. The key is to recognize and encourage the beneficial microbes and deter the detrimental ones.
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