The Academy Awards, often known as the Oscars, are awards given out in the film industry for outstanding creative and technical achievements. Many consider them to be the most prestigious and important awards in the entertainment industry. With this year’s Academy Awards being hosted for the 94th time on Sunday, we thought to award some trophies to different microorganisms. Keep on reading to find out who ‘snatched the trophy’!
THE AWARD FOR THE LARGEST MICROORGANISM GOES TO…
This Gram-negative coccoid Proteobacterium is found in the ocean of the continental shelf of Namibia – reflected in the bacterium’s name. On average it is 0.1-0.3mm in size, but it can grow as big as a whopping 0.75mm.
Unlike other bacteria, T. namibiensis can grow so large in fact, that it is visible to the naked eye – no microscope needed! Its size is down to the number of nitrates it holds, as there can be times of low nitrate concentration where the bacterium is found.
Quite interestingly, this bacterium uses sulphur and nitrates for anaerobic respiration. However, since the nitrate concentrations in its surrounding fluctuate, it stores high concentrations of nitrate within its large vacuole, giving its large size. The vacuole takes up approximately 98% of the cell volume.
THE AWARD FOR THE SLOWEST MICROORGANISM GOES TO…
This bacterium has a generation time between 12-16 hours, which is the time it takes for the number of bacteria to double in numbers. This makes it the slowest known microorganism. In comparison, the fastest growing microorganism, Clostridium perfringens, has a generation time of only ten minutes.
Not up for an award is the fact that M. tuberculosis causes – you might have guessed from its name – the disease tuberculosis (TB) in humans. Its main site of infection is the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body. Like a cold, it can be transmitted through airborne droplets when someone infected with TB coughs or sneezes in the air.
THE AWARD FOR THE MOST SHIP-SINKING BACTERIA GOES TO…
The name of this Gram-negative bacterium gives a clue to where it was found: on rusticles on the wreck of the RMS Titanic. So very Oscar-worthy indeed.
Rusticles are a formation of rust in an icicle shape and are found deep underwater when iron oxidises. According to researcher Dr. Henrietta Mann it is possible that the bacteria can cause the Titanic to completely disintegrate within the next 30 years. When these bacteria break down rusticles, they gain energy in the form of electrons from the degradation of iron that is present in the steel.
Although this bacterium could pose a danger to oil rigs, it can possibly be used in bioremediation, meaning that H. titanicae can decompose shipwrecks and other metallic products that are littering the ocean floor and causing pollution to marine life. Sounds like there might be another award nomination for H. titanicae in future.
THE AWARD FOR THE BEST TEAM PLAYER GOES TO…
Helping other organisms to get nutrients in the right format, this anaerobic bacterium changes sulphur in the environment into a type of sulphur that can be used by other organisms to make up proteins and vitamins. It also transforms atmospheric nitrogen into a form of nitrogen that plants and animals can absorb to make amino acids, proteins, and DNA. Clearly a well-deserved award win for best team player!
Adding to its VIP status, it has been suggested that this bacterium has been around since there were low amounts of oxygen on Earth.
THE AWARD FOR THE CLINGIEST MICROORGANISM GOES TO…
No, it is not your significant other, but it is the partner you probably would never want. This bacterium is the cause of bad breath as it produces compounds of sulphur on your tongue. Next time you brush your teeth don’t forget to brush your tongue too to get rid of this very clingy bacterium.
F. nucleatum is also found on dental plaque, a biofilm of bacteria that grows on your teeth. It not only causes the disease gingivitis but also periodontitis – talk about duality.
THE AWARD FOR THE MOST LIFE-SAVING MICROORGANISM GOES TO…
This fungus is a lifesaver and is extremely important in food and drug production. Some types of Penicillium produce the antibiotic penicillin, a substance that can reduce the growth or even kill some types of bacteria.
Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin completely by accident. He left his Staphylococcus culture in an agar plate and on his return from a two-week holiday he found his agar plate to be completely contaminated by mould. He noticed that the mould prevented the growth of the Staphylococcus, meaning that the mould had antibacterial properties.
Whilst antibiotic resistance is a topic of many discussions and research projects, this antibiotic drug helped many people and reduced the number of deaths in World War II and has saved millions of lives around the world since.