Microbial biotechnology uses microorganisms to either carry out processes or produce products for human use. Early uses of microbes included the production of beer and wine and, later, cheese; leavened bread; and fermented foods such as yogurt and pickles. Modern biotechnology includes all early uses of microorganisms in addition to the production of pharmaceuticals, preservation of foods through methods such as pasteurization, and protection of the environment through the treatment of wastewater so that it can be safely released back into the environment. Additionally, microbial biotechnology allows for the removal of microbes and other contaminants from water to make it drinkable.
At A Glance
- The early history of microbiology applications included the eating of fungi such as mushrooms, fermentation of drinks and foods, and leavening of bread.
- Microbiology has been influential in the development of antibiotics, vaccines, and other critical medications.
- Microorganisms are being considered as solutions to environmental issues facing the planet, including pollution cleanup, clean energy, and natural resource recovery.
- Beer, wine, and spirits are made via fermentation, a process that converts the sugars in liquids to alcohol.
Cheese, a dairy product, is made via the action of microorganisms on solidified milk proteins.
Fermented foods, such as yogurt, pickles, and soy sauce, resist spoilage and have robust flavors and textures.
- Microorganisms can spoil foods and make people sick, so methods such as pasteurization are used to kill microorganisms and preserve food and drink.
- Water is tested for contamination with the use of indicator bacteria, most commonly fecal coliforms, and then examined for the presence of colony growth.
Wastewater, or sewage, treatment involves three stages: the separation of heavy solids and liquids from water, the use of microorganisms to eliminate biological matter, and filtration and disinfection of the remaining water.