Harmful Bacteria in Soil

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There are various types of harmful bacteria found in soil.

Bacteria can be found on the human body, within the air you breathe, in water and even in soil. Harmful bacteria found within soil can cause potential harm to humans, plants and trees. Some forms of bacteria can produce poisonous toxins, which can be fatal if the spores of such bacteria are inhaled, ingested or transferred through a wound.

Bacillus Species

Food contaminated with B. cereus can result in food poisoning.

There are a few variety of Bacillus. Bacillus cereus is a bacteria commonly found in soil. B. cereus is capable of withstanding extreme conditions, such as heat. Food grown in soil containing B. cereus can become susceptible to contamination. It is also possible to inhale aggravated B. cereus spores, or have spores enter broken skin when you don't wear gloves while gardening. According to the Textbook of Bacteriology, B. cereus contains three types of enterotoxins. Enterotoxins are toxins produced by bacteria and are responsible for causing the vomiting and diarrhea associated with food poisoning.

Crown Gall Disease

Crown gall affects plants and trees.

Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a form of bacteria that causes disease in plant tissue. If A. tumefaciens enters a healthy tree or plant through the root or stem from the soil, the bacterium will parasitize the tree or plant. The host of A. tumifaciens will succumb to tumor development and changes in plant metabolism. Tumors can begin as white callused tissue on the tree or plant. To prevent crown gall disease, it is important for plant life to be sustained outside of contaminated soil.

Anthrax Development

B. anthracis can survive in soil for years.

Anthrax is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. B. anthracis can survive for years within soil. When the bacterium produces spores, the potential for contamination becomes possible. Spores can be disturbed during gardening. According to the Directors of Health Promotion and Education, the inhalation of spores from contaminated soil can result in illness. Anthrax is also responsible for producing a toxin that can result in skin ulcers, respiratory distress, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and possible death.

Anaerobic Bacteria

C. perfringens is most commonly found in soil and water.

Anaerobic bacteria don't require oxygen to survive. One particular species, Clostridium perfringens can be found virtually everywhere. The bacteria can be found in the intestines of humans and animals. However, the bacteria is predominantly found in soil and water. C. perfringens is one of the most common bacterium responsible for food-borne illnesses. If C. perfringens is exposed to extreme temperatures, such as heat, the bacterium will sporulate, or form new spores. The new spores are extremely resistent; which can make outbreaks of illness possible.

Tetanus Development

C. tetani can enter a wound.

Clostridium tetani is responsible for causing tetanus. C. tetani produces spores which can be inhaled. The spores can also enter wounds, thus resulting in tetanus. If C. tetani enters your body, germination of the spores wil occur, allowing the bacteria to grow. C. tetani produces a potent toxin known as tetanospasmin. This toxin affects your nervous system, resulting in muscle stiffness, spasms, respiratory distress and fever.

references & resources

China Zmuida

China Zmuida has been a researcher and writer since 1997. She is a member of Free the Slaves and spends her time volunteering. Zmuida holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from the University of Arizona and is studying for her postgraduate teaching certificate.