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Microbiology for Dummies

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2019-03-26
  • Publisher: For Dummies

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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


Microbiology For Dummies (9781119544425) was previously published as Microbiology For Dummies (9781118871188). While this version features a new Dummies cover and design, the content is the same as the prior release and should not be considered a new or updated product.


Microbiology is the study of life itself, down to the smallest particle

Microbiology is a fascinating field that explores life down to the tiniest level. Did you know that your body contains more bacteria cells than human cells? It's true. Microbes are essential to our everyday lives, from the food we eat to the very internal systems that keep us alive. These microbes include bacteria, algae, fungi, viruses, and nematodes. Without microbes, life on Earth would not survive. It's amazing to think that all life is so dependent on these microscopic creatures, but their impact on our future is even more astonishing. Microbes are the tools that allow us to engineer hardier crops, create better medicines, and fuel our technology in sustainable ways. Microbes may just help us save the world. 

Microbiology For Dummies is your guide to understanding the fundamentals of this enormously-encompassing field. Whether your career plans include microbiology or another science or health specialty, you need to understand life at the cellular level before you can understand anything on the macro scale. 

  • Explore the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells
  • Understand the basics of cell function and metabolism
  • Discover the differences between pathogenic and symbiotic relationships
  • Study the mechanisms that keep different organisms active and alive 

You need to know how cells work, how they get nutrients, and how they die. You need to know the effects different microbes have on different systems, and how certain microbes are integral to ecosystem health. Microbes are literally the foundation of all life, and they are everywhere. Microbiology For Dummies will help you understand them, appreciate them, and use them.

Author Biography

Jennifer C. Stearns, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at McMaster University. She studies how we get our gut microbiome in early life and how it can keep us healthy over time. Michael G. Surette, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, where he pushes the boundaries of microbial research. Julienne C. Kaiser, PhD, is a doctoral career educator.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Foolish Assumptions 2

Icons Used in This Book 2

Beyond the Book 3

Where to Go from Here 3

Part 1: Getting Started With Microbiology 5

Chapter 1: Microbiology and You 7

Why Microbiology? 7

Introducing the Microorganisms 8

Deconstructing Microbiology 10

Chapter 2: Microbiology: The Young Science 11

Before Microbiology: Misconceptions and Superstitions 12

Discovering Microorganisms 12

Debunking the myth of spontaneous generation 13

Improving medicine, from surgery to antibiotics and more 14

Looking at microbiology outside the human body 16

The Future of Microbiology 16

Exciting frontiers 17

Remaining challenges 18

Chapter 3: Microbes: They’re Everywhere and They Can Do Everything 21

Habitat Diversity 23

Metabolic Diversity 24

Getting energy 25

Capturing carbon 25

Making enzymes 26

Secondary metabolism 26

The Intersection of Microbes and Everyone Else 27

Part 2: Balancing the Dynamics Of Microbial Life 29

Chapter 4: Understanding Cell Structure and Function 31

Seeing the Shapes of Cells 31

Life on a Minute Scale: Considering the Size of Prokaryotes 33

The Cell: An Overview 34

Scaling the Outer Membrane and Cell Walls 35

Examining the outer membrane 35

Exploring the cell wall 37

Other Important Cell Structures 41

Divining Cell Division 43

Tackling Transport Systems 44

Coasting with the current: Passive transport 45

Upstream paddle: Active transport 46

Keeping things clean with efflux pumps 46

Getting Around with Locomotion 47

Chapter 5: Making Sense of Metabolism 49

Converting with Enzymes 49

In Charge of Energy: Oxidation and Reduction 51

Donating and accepting electrons 52

Bargaining with energy-rich compounds 54

Storing energy for later 55

Breaking Down Catabolism 56

Digesting glycolysis 56

Stepping along with respiration and electron carriers 57

Moving with the proton motive force 59

Turning the citric acid cycle 60

Stacking Up with Anabolism 61

Creating amino acids and nucleic acids 62

Making sugars and polysaccharides 63

Putting together fatty acids and lipids 65

Chapter 6: Getting the Gist of Microbial Genetics 67

Organizing Genetic Material 68

DNA: The recipe for life 68

Perfect plasmids 70

Doubling down with DNA replication 71

Assembling the Cellular Machinery 75

Making messenger RNA 75

Remembering other types of RNA 77

Synthesizing protein 78

Making the Right Amount: Regulation 80

Turning the tap on and off: DNA regulation 81

Regulating protein function 83

Changing the Genetic Code 83

Slight adjustments 83

Major rearrangements 85

Chapter 7: Measuring Microbial Growth 89

Getting Growth Requirements Right 89

Physical requirements 90

Chemical requirements 91

Culturing microbes in the lab 92

Observing Microbes 94

Counting small things 95

Seeing morphology 97

Calculating Cell Division and Population Growth 98

Dividing cells 99

Following growth phases 100

Inhibiting Microbial Growth 101

Physical methods 101

Disinfectants 102

Part 3: Sorting Out Microbial Diversity 103

Chapter 8: Appreciating Microbial Ancestry 105

Where Did Microbes Come From? 105

Tracing the origins of life 106

Diversifying early prokaryotes 107

The impact of prokaryotes on the early earth 107

Hitching a ride: Endosymbiosis 108

Understanding Evolution 111

Studying Evolution 113

Choosing marker genes 113

Seeing the direction of gene transfer in prokaryotes 114

Classifying and Naming Microbes 115

Climbing the Tree of Life 117

Chapter 9: Harnessing Energy, Fixing Carbon 119

Forging Ahead with Autotrophic Processes 120

Fixing carbon 120

Using the Energy in Light 124

Harvesting light: Chlorophylls and bacteriochlorophylls 125

Helping photosynthesis out: Carotenoids and phycobilins 127

Generating oxygen (or not): Oxygenic and anoxygenic photosynthesis 128

Getting Energy from the Elements: Chemolithotrophy 133

Harnessing hydrogen 134

Securing electrons from sulfur 134

Pumping iron 135

Oxidizing nitrate and ammonia 136

Chapter 10: Comparing Respiration and Fermentation 139

Lifestyles of the Rich and Facultative 139

Seeing the Big Picture 141

Digging into Respiration 144

Spinning the citric acid cycle 144

Stepping down the electron transport chain 146

Respiring anaerobically 147

Figuring Out Fermentation 150

Chapter 11: Uncovering a Variety of Habitats 155

Defining a Habitat 156

Understanding Nutrient Cycles 157

Carbon cycling 157

Nitrogen cycling 160

Sulfur cycling 162

Phosphorous cycles in the ocean 162

Microbes Socializing in Communities 163

Using quorum sensing to communicate 163

Living in biofilms 163

Exploring microbial mats 165

Discovering Microbes in Aquatic and Terrestrial Habitats 165

Thriving in water 166

Swarming soils 167

Getting Along with Plants and Animals 168

Living with plants 169

Living with animals 171

Living with insects 172

Living with ocean creatures 172

Tolerating Extreme Locations 173

Detecting Microbes in Unexpected Places 174

Part 4: Meeting the Microbes 175

Chapter 12: Meet the Prokaryotes 177

Getting to Know the Bacteria 178

The Gram-negative bacteria: Proteobacteria 178

More Gram-negative bacteria 182

The Gram-positive bacteria 186

Acquainting Yourself with the Archaea 188

Some like it scalding: Extreme thermophiles 190

Going beyond acidic: Extreme acidophiles 191

Super salty: Extreme halophiles 192

Not terribly extreme Archaea 193

Chapter 13: Say Hello to the Eukaryotes 195

Fun with Fungi 196

Figuring out fungal physiology 196

Itemizing fungal diversity 199

Interacting with plant roots 201

Ask us about the Ascomycetes 202

Mushrooms: Basidiomycetes 203

Perusing the Protists 204

Making us sick: Apicoplexans 205

Making plants sick: Oomycetes 207

Chasing amoeba and ciliates 207

Encountering the algae 210

Chapter 14: Examining the Vastness of Viruses 215

Hijacking Cells 215

Frugal viral structure 216

Simplifying viral function 217

Making Heads or Tails of Bacteriophage 219

Lytic phage 219

Temperate phage 220

Transposable phage 222

Discussing Viruses of Eukaryotes 224

Infecting animal cells 224

Following plant viruses 227

How Host Cells Fight Back 229

Restriction enzymes 229


Interfering with RNA viruses: RNAi 232

Part 5: Seeing the Impact Of Microbes 233

Chapter 15: Understanding Microbes in Human Health and Disease 235

Clarifying the Host Immune Response 236

Putting up barriers to infection 236

Raising a red flag with inflammation 237

Holding down the fort with innate immunity 237

Sending out the troops for adaptive immunity 238

Antibodies in action 240

Relying on Antimicrobials for Treating Disease 243

Fundamental features of antibiotics 244

Targets of destruction 245

Unraveling microbial drug resistance 247

Discovering new antibiotics 249

Searching Out Superbugs 250

Staying ahead of vancomycin-resistant enterococci 251

Battling methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus 251

Outcompeting Clostridium difficile 253

Pressure from extended-spectrum beta-lactamases 253

Knowing the Benefits of Prebiotics and Probiotics 254

Attacking Viruses with Antiviral Drugs 255

Chapter 16: Putting Microbes to Work: Biotechnology 257

Using Recombinant DNA Technology 258

Making the insert 258

Employing plasmids 261

Cutting with restriction enzymes 262

Getting microbes to take up DNA 264

Using promoters to drive expression 267

Making use of expression vectors 267

Properly folding proteins 268

Being mindful of metabolic load 269

Making long, multi-gene constructs 269

Providing Therapies 272

Improving antibiotics 272

Developing vaccines 272

Using Microbes Industrially 273

Protecting plants with microbial insecticides 274

Making biofuels 275

Bioleaching metals 276

Cleaning up with microbes 276

Chapter 17: Fighting Microbial Diseases 279

Protecting Public Health: Epidemiology 279

Tracking diseases 280

Investigating outbreaks 280

Identifying a Microbial Pathogen 283

Characterizing morphology 283

Using biochemical tests 284

Typing strains with phage 286

Using serology 287

Testing antibiotic susceptibility 288

Understanding Vaccines 289

Understanding how vaccines work 290

Ranking the types of vaccines 291

Part 6: New Frontiers in Microbiology 293

Chapter 18: Teasing Apart Communities 295

Studying Microbial Communities 295

Borrowing from ecology 296

Seeing what sets microbial communities apart from plants and animals 296

Observing Communities: Microbial Ecology Methods 297

Selecting something special with enrichment 297

Seeing cells through lenses 298

Measuring microbial activity 299

Identifying species using marker genes 300

Getting the Hang of Microbial Genetics and Systematics 301

Sequencing whole genomes 301

Using metagenomics to study microbial communities 302

Reading microbial transcriptomics 303

Figuring out proteomics and metabolomics 304

Looking for Microbial Dark Matter 306

Chapter 19: Synthesizing Life 307

Regulating Genes: The lac Operon 308

Using a good natural system 308

Improving a good system 310

Designing Genetic Networks 312

Switching from one state to another 313

Oscillating between states 314

Keeping signals short 315

The Synthetic Biologist’s Toolbox 315

Making it modular 315

Participating in the iGEM competition 316

Part 7: The Part of Tens 319

Chapter 20: Ten (or So) Diseases Caused by Microbes 321

Ebola 322

Anthrax 322

Influenza 323

Tuberculosis 324

HIV 324

Cholera 325

Smallpox 325

Primary Amoebic Menigoencephalitis 326

The Unknown 327

Chapter 21: Ten Great Uses for Microbes 329

Making Delicious Foods 329

Growing Legumes 330

Brewing Beer, Liquor, and Wine 330

Killing Insect Pests 331

Treating Sewage 331

Contributing to Medicine 332

Setting Up Your Aquarium 332

Making and Breaking Down Biodegradable Plastics 333

Turning Over Compostable Waste 333

Maintaining a Balance 334

Chapter 22: Ten Great Uses for Microbiology 335

Medical Care: Keeping People Healthy 335

Dental Care: Keeping Those Pearly Whites Shining Bright 336

Veterinary Care: Helping Fido and Fluffy to Feel Their Best 337

Monitoring the Environment 338

Making Plants Happy 339

Keeping Fish Swimming Strong 339

Producing Food, Wine, and Beer 340

Science Hacking 341

Looking for Microbes in Clean Rooms 341

Producing Pharmaceuticals 342

Index 343

Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?

The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

The Used, Rental and eBook copies of this book are not guaranteed to include any supplemental materials. Typically, only the book itself is included. This is true even if the title states it includes any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

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