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Bacteria: The Benign, the Bad, and the Beautiful




Bacteria: The Benign, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Trudy M. Wassenaar

ISBN: 978-1-118-14338-4 November 2011 Wiley-Blackwell 232 Pages


A comprehensive, reader-friendly introduction to the world of bacteria

When most people hear the word "bacteria" they think of food poisoning; infections; and acute, debilitating, or fatal diseases. Yet, while E. coli, strep, and other bacterial pathogens certainly cause their share of misery in the world, they are only a tiny portion of a vast universe of microorganisms—the most basic of life forms. Without them, nothing else could live or grow on Planet Earth. Bacteria: The Benign, the Bad, and the Beautiful introduces you to this diverse, microscopic world and explains the fundamental microbiological concepts you need to explore the life and behavior of bacteria. Even if you have no previous background in the subject, the book's clear, jargon-free language tells you what you need to know about:

  • The origins and evolution of bacteria

  • Some of the fundamental ways in which bacteria have shaped the world

  • Bacteria commonly found in the healthy human body

  • Antibiotics and the growing problem of resistance

  • Marine microbiology, bacterial toxins, and enzymes

  • Bacterial genetics and genomics

  • Bacteria that survive in extreme environments, such as boiling water

  • And much more

This comprehensive guide features custom-drawn, black-and-white illustrations by artist Karoly Farkas, and it illuminates its points through real-world examples and engaging stories. Discrete, topic-by-topic structure, text-box summaries of background science, and a helpful glossary make for quick and easy reference. Whether you are a science professional in need of information on bacteria outside of your specialty, a student in search of a solid introduction, or a curious reader looking for fascinating and reliable information, Bacteria: The Benign, the Bad, and the Beautiful is the resource you need.

Preface vii

Note to the Reader ix

1. The Blue Planet 1

2. Tree of Life: Let Three Live 9

3. How Old Are They? 17

4. On the Move 23

5. Needles 29

6. Dead or Alive 35

7. Nobel Works 43

8. Bacteria and Insects 51

9. Bacterial Toxins 59

10. Enzymes 67

11. Genetics and Genomics 75

12. Antibiotics and Resistance 81

13. Marine Microbiology 87

14. Bacteria and Oil 95

15. Extreme Life 103

16. Record Holders 109

17. Bacteria and Art 117

18. Fixing the Air 125

19. Pest and Pestilence 131

20. Our Bacteria 141

21. Sensing Bacteria 149

22. Bacteria and Mankind 155

23. Big Questions on Small Subjects 163

24. Synthetic Biology 169

25. Bacteria, the Earth, and Beyond 177

Glossary 183

Bibliography 195

Index of Bacterial Genera and Species 205

Subject Index 209

“This book should be on public and school library shelves and in places where there is research in microbiology.”  (Reference Reviews, 1 December 2012)

“Useful for lay readers curious about bacteria and bacterial activities.  Summing Up: Recommended.  General audiences, high school students, and lower-level undergraduates.”  (Choice, 1 July 2012)

“Overall, I would confidently recommend this book to anyone with even a vague interest in bateria.  (Phenotype, 28 May 2012)

"Bacteria are fascinating little creatures that are deserving of the stories contained within Bacteria: The Benign, the Bad, and the Beautiful. The reader's viewpoint may very well change after hearing them." (New York Journal of Books, 13 December 2011)