How to Differentiate between Good and Bad Bacteria

When the term bacteria is mentioned, the common thought is that it is harmful and causes people and animals to become ill. However, some bacteria can actually be helpful and beneficial for the human body. In fact, bacteria forms the basis of many food products that we are familiar with, including yogurt and cheese. It is important to differentiate between good and bad bacteria, because antibiotics that eliminate bacteria do not differentiate between the two, and therefore, when taken, antibiotics wipe out both types equally. Hence, it is important to know when the best time to start on a course of antibiotics is, and naturally, it is necessary to understand the difference between good and bad bacteria. Here are three important ways to differentiate between the two.

Where It Is Found

In deciding whether a particular type of bacteria is good or bad, a sort of background check must be done to see where in the body the bacteria can be found, and where it is generally used. Those found on the surface on the skin are generally harmful, since the skin attracts dirt and bacteria from the places that we’ve been. These bacteria cause infections when interacting with open wounds. Another type of harmful bacteria are those that can be found in the gut, such as Salmonella or E. Coli that cause food poisoning, vomiting and diarrhea. On the other hand, good bacteria that aid in digestion can be found in the small intestines and stomach, helping the food that has been ingested to be broken down more effectively. Good bacteria can also be found in food products that are available off the shelves, such as yogurt and cheese, while bad bacteria can be found in spoiled food.

Health Effects

Another way to distinguish the two is to differentiate between the effects that the bacteria have when inside the human body. The general rule of thumb is that bad bacteria cause symptoms of illness and disease, while good bacteria do not. However, care must be taken when using this to distinguish the two types of bacteria. For instance, bad bacteria causes symptoms of food poisoning such as diarrhea. But eating too much yogurt and taking in too much Acidophilus lactobacillus can also cause similar problems. Therefore, although the effects of the bacteria on health can be used as a gauge to tell the difference between the two, care must be given to exceptions and the lifestyle choices of the particular individual.

Gram Staining

One of the general scientific methods to tell the difference between the two is by gram-staining. Although this is not the most accurate of methods, it is one of the most commonly used and also one of the cheapest and easiest. Gram staining uses a dye to stain the cell walls of bacteria either pink or purple, with the former being gram-negative and the latter being gram-positive. Both differ in that gram-negative bacteria have an external coating of slime outside the cell wall. Gram-negative bacteria generally tend to be the more harmful ones, and therefore tend to constitute the bad bacteria that bring about problems to human and animal health.


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