Top Five Facts: Uses Of Germs

Food and drink

Fermentation is the process by which yeast/bacteria convert sugars and carbohydrates to alcohol and CO2. Without these germs we’d never have bread, beer, wine, cheese or vinegar.


The most famous fungus in history is penicillium notatum, the first antibiotic. Penicillin isolated from the fungus prevents bacteria from forming new cell walls.

Renewable fuel

A start-up in California has engineered bacteria to ferment renewable feedstock (grains, grasses, etc) into diesel fuel. Ethanol is chemically similar to alcohol.

Sewage treatment

Water hyacinths have the uncanny ability to soak up raw sewage. Bacteria live on their roots, breaking down organic matter into nutrients the plants can use.


In 500 BCE, archers would dip arrowheads in a putrid mix of dung, snake venom, human blood and decomposing flesh to poison the enemy with a potent microbial mix.