Bacteria are often perceived as an enemy to destroy, with household cleaning products boastfully advertising that they kill 99% of germs. Although pathogenic bacteria should not be underestimated, they are far from being the best representatives of the world of bacteria. In this book, Jean-Jacques Pernelle, research director at Irstea, answers 80 questions inviting us to take a closer look at the multiple facets of bacteria to change the way we look at these microorganisms.
Bacteria are omnipresent, from the ocean depths to clouds. Most of them ignore us as much as we ignore them, even though they play an essential role in our lives and sometimes even in our history. For example, did you know that they made our atmosphere breathable? Or that they altered the course of World War I? Without them, there would be no cheese, dry sausage, chocolate or coffee. They produce our medicine and purify our wastewater. They are even capable of dissolving sunken transatlantic ocean liners and destroying the most toxic chemicals. There is so much to know about these organisms that have existed on Earth for billions of years. “Actually, it’s not the bacteria that are living in our world, but us who happen to be passing through theirs - a world full of bacteria.” If we thought of the earth’s history as one 24-hour day, bacteria would appear at 4am while humans would only appear a few seconds before midnight. And they will undoubtedly be the last living organisms on our planet,” explains Pernelle, research director in environmental microbiology at Irstea and author of the book published by Editions Quae.
The many short stories told in this book show bacteria in a new light. Bacteria can be useful not only for our health but also for the preservation of our environment and maintaining a balanced biosphere. “The purpose of this book is to show how diverse bacteria are. Bacteria are useful and everywhere; we couldn’t live without them.”
Jean-Jacques Pernelle is research director at Irstea. He studied biochemistry, genetics and astrophysics at university. After conducting research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s disease, Pernelle joined Irstea in 1990 to work in microbial ecology and water purification. His work focuses primarily on microbiology applied to the environment.
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