25 Interesting Facts about Bacteria

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1 Belly Button Biodiversity project

Belly Button Biodiversity project

During the Belly Button Biodiversity Project, scientists examined the genetic makeup of the bacteria found in the bellybuttons of 60 volunteers. One individual, who hadn’t washed in several years, hosted 2 species of extremophile bacteria that typically thrive in ice caps and thermal vents.

2. The wreck of Titanic’s is disappearing at a rate that it’s estimated to be completely gone in about 30 years. A microorganism called ‘Halomonas titanicae’ (also called the ‘steel-munching bacteria’) is slowly eating away the iron of the ships’ wreck, causing its deterioration.

3. The smell of the air after a storm is caused by Geosmin, a chemical released by dead soil bacteria. Humans are hyper sensitive to it, capable of detecting it at a concentration of 5 parts per trillion. It’s theorized that in our evolutionary past this helped us seek out water.

4. Scientists at UCLA noticed that “time and time again” people suffered their first experience with anxiety or depression right after stomach illnesses. They did brain scans after patients ate probiotics, and found that stomach bacteria actually directly affected the connectivity of the brain.

5. About 95% of serotonin in humans is produced in the gastrointestinal tract which is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, that are influenced by bacteria. The inner workings of the digestive system don’t just help digest food, but also guide moods and emotions.

6 Birthday candles

Birthday candles

Blowing out birthday candles increases bacteria on the cake by 1,400%.

7. During the American Civil War some soldier’s wounds glowed blue. Soldiers whose wounds glowed had better chance of surviving, and so the glow was called “Angel’s Glow”. Now it is known that the luminescence comes from bacteria that produce antibiotics and that live in nematodes.

8. Breast milk contains sugars which aren’t digestible by human infants, but which serve as food for desirable gut bacteria.

9. Scientists have invented ‘poop pills’, which are capsules that contain only bacteria from donors’ poo which are used to treat gut infections. They have no scent, taste and are as effective as traditional fecal transplants while being much cheaper.

10. Bathroom hand dryers suck fecal bacteria from the room and spray it directly on your hands.

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11 Mitochondria


The mitochondria in our cells, which generate energy, are ancient bacteria that had a symbiotic relationship with other single-cell organisms and developed around 1.5 billion years ago.

12. Bacteria will feed on a decaying body underwater and create gas, which causes the body to float to the surface. However, Lake Superior’s cold temperatures inhibit bacterial growth and the bodies tend to sink and never resurface.

13. Researchers have identified a naturally occurring bacteria named Clostridia in the human gut that keeps people from developing food allergies. This beneficial gut bacteria diminished with frequent antibiotic use at a young age — making children more susceptible to food allergies later in life.

14. Researchers have discovered bacteria that have naturally evolved to eat away at polyethylene terephthalate, the plastic known as PET or polyester. While studying the structure of an enzyme found in that bacteria, they accidentally created a “mutant enzyme” that can break down plastic within a few days.

15. A microbiologist examined samples from 33 keyboards and found a variety of bugs including E coli and S aureus, which can cause skin infections and make people ill. One of the keyboards had to be removed from the office because it was five times dirtier than a toilet.

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16 Conan the Bacterium

Conan the Bacterium

There is a species of bacteria named Deinococcus radiodurans which is so resistant to radiation that scientists have nicknamed it “Conan the Bacterium.”

17. There is a bacteria named Tersicoccus phoenicis that can survive with almost no nutrients in a spacecraft assembly clean room and is resistant against the sterilization measures used there.

18. A bacteria named Paracoccus denitrificans not only survived in an ultracentrifuge with high speeds corresponding to 403,627 g, but actually had robust cellular growth. Hyperaccelerations like this are found in very massive stars and the shockwaves of supernovas.

19. Magnetospirillum magneticum is a free-living bacteria which has the ability to actively take in iron, convert it to magnetic magnetite, align it like a backbone along its body, and travel through its environment using magnetic fields.

20. A bacteria named Streptomyces hygroscopicus from Easter Island saves lives by preventing organ rejection and now may help curb Alzheimers.

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21 Geobacter metallireducens

Geobacter metallireducens

Geobacter metallireducens is a bacterium eats or excretes pure electricity. If you stick an electrode in the ground and pass electrons down it, soon the electrode will be coated with feeding bacteria. Experiments show that these bacteria essentially eat or excrete electricity.

22. Because of different bacteria living on man/woman’s body, man’s sweat smells like cheese and woman’s smells like onions.

23. Bacteria can absorb genetic material from dead bacteria and integrate them into their own genome. So if a bacterium eats the corpse of one which has adapted to colder temperatures, it will gain that resistance to cold as well.

24. In 2000, scientists were successfully able to revive bacteria (Bacillus strain 2-9-3) that had been lying dormant for nearly 250 million years.

25. There is a type of bacteria called Cupriavidus metallidurans that poops gold.

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