It can be confidently stated that Escherichia Coli or E. Coli is among the most well-known prokaryotic microorganisms, which will be the primary focus of the given discussion post. The subfield of interest is bacteriology, which is concerned with the study of prokaryotic organisms, specifically bacteria (Hill et al., 2019). When it comes to the general utility of E. Coli, it is important to note that it has a complex and multifaceted role in being useful or harmful to humans. On the one hand, E. Coli can be the cause of severe foodborne diseases due or food poisoning. On the other hand, bacteria are highly beneficial to humans in terms of both physiology and biotechnology. It is stated that “Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacterium that is commonly found in the gut of humans and warm-blooded animals. Most strains of E. coli are harmless” (World Health Organization, 2018, para. 2). In other words, only a few select strains are harmful to humans, while the majority of these microorganisms are not only beneficial but essential.
One should be aware that the benefit of E. Coli to humans comes in three major areas. Firstly, it is difficult to emphasize enough how E. Coli was and still is critical for human progress and development in a wide range of fields of industrial biology. In biotechnology, E. Coli is heavily relied upon to produce and synthesize nutritional supplements, livestock feed, and other biochemical substances, which are of paramount importance to agriculture, human nutrition, and medicine (Wittmann & Liao, 2017). E. Coli allows biotechnologists and companies in the related industries to mass produce these essential products.
Secondly, E. Coli is an exceptional model organism, which allowed life sciences and science, in general, to conduct biological experiments, study molecular biology, analyze the genetic dynamics, and, ultimately, make new discoveries. It is commonly known in biology that E. Coli offers a wide range of advantages as a model organism. For example, its quick growth rate allows researchers to grow colonies in a short span of time, and its relative simplicity provides a more precise and accurate analysis of the internal processes. In addition, E. Coli is inexpensive to maintain and feed, which makes it affordable to conduct biological experiments with less funding.
Thirdly, and most importantly, E. Coli bacteria are critical for the health and wellbeing of human gut microbiota. Human gut microbiota is comprised of a multitude of microorganism species and strains, and the vast majority of them are anaerobic. The latter means that oxygen is likely to be toxic for their survival and functionality, which means it is harmful to the human microbiota’s mutual relationship with humans affecting the health of the host as well. However, E. Coli is an aerobic bacterium, which highlights its role as an oxygen consumer in the gut enabling a hospitable environment for other microorganisms. Thus, human gut microbiota contains a small fraction of E. Coli, which protects the entirety of the gut biome from oxygen since it is aerobic by nature (Litvak et al., 2018). The low levels of oxygen control E. Coli’s population, ensuring balance and health both for the host and gut microbiota. In other words, E. Coli plays a vital role in aiding digestion and maintaining the balance of human gut microbiota by consuming all the oxygen trapped in the intestines.
Hill., R. A., Hunt, J., Sanders, E., Tran, M., Burk, G. A., Mlsna, T. E., & Fitzkee, N. C. (2019). Effect of biochar on microbial growth: A metabolomics and bacteriological investigation in E. coli. Environmental Science & Technology, 53(5), 2635-2646.
Litvak, Y., Byndloss, M. X., & Baumler, A. J. (2018). Colonocyte metabolism shapes the gut microbiota. Science, 362(6418), 1-14.
Wittmann, C., & Liao, J. C. (2017). Industrial biotechnology: Microorganisms, volume 1. Wiley.
World Health Organization. (2018). E. coli.