Microbiology is the study of organisms that at some point in their life exist as single cells and contain a nucleic acid genome that can replicate. Many organisms fall into this definition including algae, fungi, protozoa, bacteria and archaea. Together these organisms have a profound impact on the biosphere, making up the majority of life both in number and total mass. Many illnesses are caused by infection with microbes and understanding these infections has lead to cures and better treatments. The emergence of new infectious agents will spur continued interest in microbiology. Many more microbes grow harmlessly in the environment, taking advantage of chemicals and/or sunlight to grow. Research into these microbes has also helped us understand the basic framework of life and revealed the basic fundamental rules that govern living systems. In the past microbes have been used in experiments to answer many scientific questions and they will continue to serve as excellent tools of inquiry in the future. A significant number of these discoveries have lead to important applications in many areas of human endeavor.
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