I recently had
to write a paper on eubacteria as part of my studies in environmental
education. I am not really a science type of gal….or at least I though I
wasn't! I see myself as a yoghurt making, compost turning, veggie
diggin’, chicken farmin, sore throat soothing, kid cleanin, gal.
As it turns
out, I know more about eubacteria than I thought I did, and all along, it was
right hear under my nose (and in my compost heap, and in my yoghurt).
owe our very existence here on earth to the unicellular prokaryotic eubacteria
(cells with no membrane enclosed nucleus and no organelles). Eubacteria in the
form of blue green algae was all over the earth about 3 million years ago.
Lucky for us, because, these little dynamos, using photosynthesis, added oxygen
to earth’s atmosphere…the beginning of something beautiful. The rest (as they
say) is history!
So, back to my
yard, which, like the rest of the natural world, benefits from the presence of
eubacteria. I can’t imagine what I would have done with out those little
eubacterial helpers working busily in my yard helping to breakdown all that
dead organic matter into useful, usable soil (with some help from my feathered friends). And while I’m in the garden, lets
just talk about nitrogen fixing. While there are a few archaebacteria that will
fix nitrogen (make it available for plants to use), once again, the
responsibility of the whole “nitrogen fixing palaver” is generally left up
to…yes, you guessed it, good ol’ eubacteria, known as rhizobia. Generally
speaking, because of the “decompositional” role that eubacteria play, plants
and animals could not get the nutrients they need to remain alive.
filled with fear when they read the word “E.coli” in the headlines of the
morning newspaper. But fear not! E.coli, another helpful eubacteria, is not
necessarily always the bad guy. It’s usually just a case of being in the wrong
place at the wrong time! E.coli lives in our intestines, helping animals digest
food. E.coli, along with other eubacteria (known as enteric bacteria) found in
the human intestine, actually make vitamins, which we, without so much as a
“thank you”, quite happily absorb. If we think we have a lot to be grateful
about to the eubacteria residing in our intestines, well just consider those
animals that have a stomach with four chambers, known as ruminants. Their very
existence is highly contingent on the billions of eubacteria floating around in
yoghurt. I have tried making my own with some success (note to self…buy a candy
thermometer). Here’s how it goes in
theory. Warm milk to 200 degrees F., in
order to begin the yogurt making process,
this actually kills off any of those naughty bacteria in the milk. This done,
cool the milk to 120 degrees F. This is the perfect temperature to add the good
eubacteria (lactobacillus, bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus). In this
lovely warm environment, this special eubacteria thrive. Just sit back and let
them do all the work, voila, beautiful yogurt. Same goes for cheese and sour cream. The list of
eubacteria associated with dairy derived products is quite impressive.
Whilst I don’t
have any oil spills in my backyard, or in my pond, if I did, I could call on my
friend the eubacteria (a specific
strain called Alcanivorax), who could do the clean up
job for a good price – cheap really! We do however have a septic tank in our
backyard, which, surprise, surprise, uses eubacteria to help purify the water
so that we can use it in our orchard.
before we all “OOOH” and “AHHH” too much over the benefits of eubacteria, like
us all, they do have an unwholesome side to them. Sadly, while eubacteria are
responsible for life on earth, they are also responsible for hundreds of
thousands of human deaths. Eubacteria can enter the body in several ways – on
contaminated food or drink (E.coli, when it is at it’s evil worst, and it’s
equally evil cousin “Sal” as in salmonella) through our lungs (tuberculosis and
pneumonia), via wounds to the flesh, (tetanus, gangrene), being bitten by an
infected insect or animal (malaria, the bubonic plague).
currently trying to rid our family of an unwanted eubacterial guest known as
streptococcus. My teenage son was mortified when I told him not to share his
eubacterial “cling ons” with any of his friends! “Aww mum, that’s disgusting!”
Here, my daughter's throat seems clear of Strep!
infection, which should not be taken lightly, is bacterial meningitis, can be
caused by a number of strains of bacteria. As for sexually transmitted diseases,
eubacteria has it’s nasty little name written over many of these including Chlamydia, Gonorrhea
and Syphilis, just to name a few.
It is right and proper for this little
organism, the eubacteria to have a kingdom all of its own. What it lacks in
size, it makes up for in number and diversity.
Eubacteria is my “new best friend”, and I have certainly taken a
“personal interest” in it. Like a new best friend, I know that there is a dark
side lurking somewhere, which should be respected, tolerated, and not provoked,
in order for the friendship to flourish. “Eubaccy” and I are great friends and
s/he is not at all offended by the almost obsessive hand washing behavior I now