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What are pathogens?

Even without seeing the naked eye, we've all heard about microorganisms, is not it? Did you know that not every microorganism is linked to diseases and that an average sized adult in the intestine carries about two kilograms of harmless microorganisms necessary for digestão¹?

Most fungi, bacteria, viruses and protozoa is harmless to human health and can even bring many benefits through its activity. We can divide the organisms into two broad groups: pathogenic and non-pathogenic, depending on the genus, species, subspecies and serotypes of the microorganism in question.

Among the non-pathogenic, we have the harmless e os Useful / beneficial.

microorganisms harmless They are those who are around us and participate in various processes of nature, but that does not cause us health problems, unless they come into contact with a weakened immune system of individual (air or oral, mostly) or are at high concentration in air or food. Among the harmless microorganisms in general stand them deteriorantes.

Microrganismos deteriorantes fazem parte da microbiota natural de alimentos como carnes e produtos lácteos inócuos ao consumo (ou seja, que não representam riscos ao consumi-los) e se desenvolvem pela grande disponibilidade de nutrientes e água no meio onde se encontram. Em alimentos recém-processados e in natura frescos, eles se encontram em baixa concentração, sendo então inofensivos ao ser humano saudável. O tempo de crescimento desses microrganismos normalmente é o que determina a vida útil ou vida de prateleira dos alimentos. Condições de armazenamento e transporte inadequados comprometem a vida útil destes alimentos, acarretando no desenvolvimento acelerado desses microrganismos, gerando odores e alterações de textura como amolecimento e cheiros não-característicos. Como exemplo de microrganismos desse tipo, temos Lactobacillus e Pseudomonas in meats².

microorganisms Useful / beneficial It is not only those who inhabit our gastrointestinal tracts and are part of our absorption of nutrients, but are also used in the food industry to participate in the manufacture of certain foods and / or give them special organoleptic characteristics. In this context, it can be mentioned yeasts, fungi that are to transform the sugar into alcohol by the fermentation process. These microorganisms, highlighting mainly Saccharomyces cerevisiaeThey are used in the production of bread, wine and beer. Another of the beneficial microorganisms, we can highlight penicillin, which is obtained from the fungus Penicillum and revolutionized medicine with its antibacterial properties: diseases such as syphilis and bacterial pneumonia, which were devastating, can now be treated quickly and effectively.

pathogens are disease-causing

microorganisms pathogenic They are very different from those that people aplenty our everyday lives: they are able to produce infectious diseases in their hosts in conditions favorable to their survival and development, produce toxic compounds and can be transmitted by air or by consumption of food contaminated by handling and unsuitable processing (mainly by cross contaminationWhich is the transmission of pathogens from one food to another innocuous contaminated). In instances of poisoning and food poisoning, the incubation period, severity and duration of the disease may be different, depending on age, nutritional and immune status of the individual sensitivity and amount of food ingested³. Not only humans are affected, but it is known that all living beings can get infections from exposure to a pathogen.

Diseases such in meat animals, for example, decrease your hunger and disposition, causing premature death and making her flesh unavailable for consumption. Among the species and subspecies of the famous Salmonella spp., there are those that cause deadly diseases in chickens, as Salmonella enterica- serotypes Gallinarum and Pullorum - and in humans (over 2,500 serotypes, in its most pathogenic), causing different symptoms of salmonellosis and detected by different microbiological techniques in farms and laboratories. One can also cite the Escherichia coliPresent in various environments in nature: the majority of existing species is harmless and is present in the natural intestinal tract of mammals. However, there are some strains of E. coli highly pathogenic causing bleeding and even death.

Plants are also susceptible to specific pathogens attacks them. About 70% of the main plant diseases are caused by fungi, such as the body Botrytis cinerea attacking strawberries, grapes and flowers in general, causing loss of entire crops and large economic losses. Most pathogenic fungi on plants spends part of its life cycle in the plant it infects, soil and debris from decaying plants4.

Muitos estudos são conduzidos desde a antiguidade para caracterizar e diferenciar bactérias patogênicas e não patogênicas, principalmente nos quesitos resistência e interação entre elas. Na indústria de alimentos, a pesquisa concentra-se em aumentar a eficiência de tratamentos térmicos como a pasteurização e desenvolver novos processamentos para minimizar a carga microbiana, além de pesquisas sobre alimentos probióticos (microrganismos benéficos) para melhorar a flora intestinal e garantir mais saúde e qualidade de vida. Há também uma crescente necessidade de tornar mais preciso o diagnóstico de doenças causadas por agentes patogênicos, tanto no controle da produção de alimentos para garantir a biossegurança quanto em hospitais e laboratórios para identificar esses agentes e mitigar o contágio em geral.

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Bibliographical sources:


[1] Henrique Lins de Barros, Biodiversity concerned, Rio de Janeiro: Sure Enigma / Fiocruz, 2011.

[2] Alcantara, Marcela; MORAIS, Isabela Cristina Wolf; SOUZA, Cyllene M. O. C. C.. Main Microorganisms Involved in the decay of sensory characteristics of meat products. Journal of Hygiene and Animal Health, [s.l.], v. 6, no. 1, p.1-20, 2012. GN1 Genesis Network. http://dx.doi.org/10.5935/1981-2965.20120001.

[3] Education Portal. Microorganisms Pathogenic and Non-Pathogenic. Available at <https://www.portaleducacao.com.br/conteudo/artigos/educacao/micro-organismos-patogenicos-e-nao-patogenicos/29171> 2013.

[4] Tomaz, I. L. Plant Diseases - Diagnosis of mycoses and Taxonomy of its agents. Collection Euroagro, Publications Europe-America, Portugal. 2002.