Microorganisms Defined

Microorganisms are a collection of organisms that share the characteristic of being visible only with a microscope. They constitute the subject matter of microbiology.

Members of the microbial world are very diverse and include the bacteria, cyanobacteria, rickettsiae, chlamydiae, fungi, unicellular (single-celled) algae, protozoa, and viruses. The majority of microorganisms contribute to the quality of human life by doing such things as maintaining the balance of chemical elements in the natural environment, by breaking down the remains of all that dies, and by recycling carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, and other elements.

Some species of microorganisms cause infectious disease. They overwhelm body systems by sheer force of numbers, or they produce powerful toxins that interfere with body physiology. Viruses inflict damage by replicating within tissue cells, thereby causing tissue degeneration.