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What are the Different Types of Bacterial Species?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 21, 2024
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There are countless species of bacteria, some of which are pathogens and some of which are essential to life. Pathogens cause disease in humans or plant life. Some bacterial species of this type include H. pylory, which causes gastrointestinal disease, and streptococcus, which causes strep throat. Beneficial bacteria that thrive in the human intestinal tract and promote good health are known as a type of probiotic called acidophilus or lactobacillus. Aerobic bacteria require oxygen to survive, while anaerobic bacteria cannot tolerate oxygen and generally thrive underwater.

Bacteria are microbes or single-cell organisms, and bacterial species may vary. These bacterial microbes can only be seen by the use of a high-powered microscope. Depending upon the structure of the bacteria and the species, they will be seen in various shapes. Bacilli is a name for any bacteria that is rod-shaped. Spirilla is a name given to the spiral-shaped variety, and cocci is the name for sphere-shaped bacteria.

Staphylococcus Aureus is a species of bacteria that can be very hazardous to human health. It causes food poisoning when food becomes contaminated with this bacteria. Dairy products and meat are especially prone to becoming contaminated. This species of bacteria can also cause staph infections. The bacteria enters the skin through an open wound and may cause skin infections that require treatment.

The pathogenic species of bacteria known as clostridium botulinum can cause serious illness, such as food-borne botulism. Honey is one food known to carry the clostridium spore. In healthy adults, these spores are generally harmless. In those with compromised immune systems or children under one year of age, however, consuming honey can be risky.

Escherichia coli, commonly known as e.Coli, is a bacterial species that causes extremely serious bouts of food poisoning. In some cases, this strain can be fatal if proper medical treatment is not received promptly. There are dozens of strains of this bacteria, most of which are typically nontoxic. Several strains can cause severe infections of gastrointestinal tract.

A bacterial species known as legionella pneumophila can cause serious lung infections. One of the most noted infections this strain of bacteria can cause is called Legionnaires' disease. One form of this disease causes pneumonia. This bacteria thrives in hot water and warm environments.

There are innumerable types of bacteria, each with its own bacterial structure and purpose. Identifying every species would not be conceivable. Different subspecies of bacteria are always emerging.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Tomislav — On Oct 26, 2011

I take cranberry supplements everyday, so that I will not get urinary tract infections, because there was a point when I would get UTI's every month.

Some of my urinary tract infections were so painful and hurt the most early in the morning, so I went to the emergency room to get treated.

The doctors did not mention cranberry supplement to me. A friend of mine who had been prone to urinary tract infections told me when she started taking cranberry supplements that she stopped getting UTI's. So of course when she told me this I had to try cranberry supplements. Thankfully, my friend was right, they worked for me too!

I also from time to time get one hundred percent cranberry juice and drink that as well. This seems to help me as well, but not as much as the supplements though.

If you have had a urinary tract infection before, you know how painful and unpleasant it can be, so I am thankful there is a natural remedy to this.

Some cranberry pills even have probiotics added to them. Cranberry pills also are supposed to have more powerful antioxidants and higher bio-activity than cranberry juice.

By Bertie68 — On Oct 26, 2011

I wish that hospitals would take more care in keeping the facilities clean. I know that it is difficult to keep all surfaces free of bacteria, but I think that more can be done to train personnel to wash themselves and surfaces carefully.

I know of several people who contracted a staph infection while in the hospital. One was recuperating in the hospital from the infection for several weeks and another one came close to dying from a staph infection. These infections were in addition to suffering another ailment.

By Saraq90 — On Oct 26, 2011

I have had staph infection twice. The first time I had staph I was terrified, because I did not know much about it and the doctor told me it could be life-threatening! I was rushed to the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital right away.

Luckily, it was not the fatal type of staph, it actually was removed that night. I still have a scar from where the Emergency Room doctor had to cut into my skin to remove all the staph infection.

Then I had another staph infection pop up on my skin about a year later. Both were in area's that I shaved quite frequently, my leg and my armpit. I started making sure that my razor were disposed of often after getting staph for the second time.

The only logical explanation I can think for me getting staph twice is that my razors may have been a little rusty and I obviously hadn't noticed. Now I check to make sure my razor is nice and clean before I use it.

By BoniJ — On Oct 25, 2011

@Oceana - I am a firm advocate of eating yogurt. I have some almost every morning. To make it a little more tasty, I add some berries, bananas and granola on top. It really tastes good and is filling.

My gastrointestinal system works better and I hope my general health is benefiting from eating yogurt. I do indulge in frozen yogurt every so often.

By sweetPeas — On Oct 25, 2011

Oh my gosh! There are so many types of bacteria swarming around us. I just watched a program on TV about all the germs, bacteria included, that were found by swab tests on everything - poles you hang on to in subways, playgrounds in fast-food restaurants, restrooms, and hospitals, to name a few.

You just can't wipe down everything before you touch it. You can be as careful as you can. But maybe the best thing to do is to work on keeping your immune system strong. It is believed that a strong immune system can guard against bacterial infections.

By strawCake — On Oct 25, 2011

I just wanted to point out that you can get botulism from improperly canned food, too. This includes both commercially canned food and food canned at home.

If you are buying canned food in the store, look out for bulging cans. This can be a sign of botulism, so don't buy it!

If you're canning food at home, you should follow all the safety instructions that came with your canning kit. When I was younger, my mom told me this horrible story about how one of her friends got her entire family sick from home canning. I definitely would not want to be the cause of a bunch of people getting sick!

By starrynight — On Oct 24, 2011

@JessicaLynn - Drug resistant bacteria is partially our fault. However, I read an interesting article awhile back that suggested drug resistant bacteria have always been around. We just didn't know they existed because we didn't have the drugs!

Anyway, bacteria really freaks me out. Especially the kind that causes food poisoning. I'm really picky about my food safety practices and I was my hands like a madwoman when I'm cooking. So far, so good. I've never gotten sick from my own cooking at least!

By JessicaLynn — On Oct 23, 2011

@Oceana - When you take acidophilus, you aren't taking a "drug," you're taking a supplement that contains good bacteria. And in fact, the pills contain a lot more good bacteria than the yogurt does.

Anyway, as far as bacteria goes, I worry a lot about drug resistant bacteria. I keep reading all this stuff about superbugs and I know we did it to ourselves. We overused anti-biotics so much that some bacteria developed a resistance.

I try really hard not to take anti-biotics unless I absolutely have to. For example, if I test positive for strep, I take them. But if I'm a little bit sick and the doctor gives them to me "just in case" I usually try to tough it out.

By cloudel — On Oct 22, 2011

@wavy58 - If you have time to choose your hospital before giving birth, pick one with a good reputation of being sterile. Several of my friends have become infected at the same hospital, and I try to avoid going there.

For staph infection, the treatment is usually antibiotics. If there is an area of pus, the doctor will need to drain it. You should never try to drain one yourself, though, because my friend did, and the infection spread through her bloodstream.

She had to be hospitalized and given strong antibiotics. The doctor had to keep draining her pus until the infection went away.

By wavy58 — On Oct 22, 2011

I will have to go to the hospital soon to give birth to my baby girl, and I am terrified about contracting staph infection. I have heard horror stories about it running rampant in hospitals, and any time you have to have surgery or be opened up in any way, the bacteria can get it through medical instruments.

What do doctors do to treat staph infection once you get it? I know that surgical instruments are supposedly sterile, and everyone always washes their hands, but one little oversight could result in someone getting infected. I would hope that the treatment for something that you contracted during surgery would not require more surgery to fix.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 21, 2011

Strep throat is super hard to get rid of, and I always break down and get antibiotics to help my body fight it. It is the most painful kind of sore throat you can have, and it makes your throat swell up so much that you can barely swallow saliva.

I always get a fever with strep throat, which adds to my misery. I feel a little out of my head. It’s crazy that something as tiny as bacteria can have such a devastating effect on something as big as a human!

Usually, my doctor will inject me with steroids to get the healing process started. When he does, the swelling goes down in just one day.

Once though, when the steroids wore off, the infection came back, and I had to try a different type of antibiotics. Strep bacteria are persistent and strong!

By Oceana — On Oct 21, 2011

The beneficial bacteria acidophilus can also be found in yogurt or taken as a supplement. I started taking it to stave off yeast infections, as my doctor suggested.

I took two acidophilus tablets every day. I stopped getting yeast infections, and I also stopped having as many gastrointestinal problems. I became more regular.

I eventually decided to start eating yogurt, because it seemed more natural than taking a drug. I found out that regular yogurt has more beneficial bacteria than frozen yogurt.

To me, it doesn’t taste as good, but I eat it anyway for my health. I usually throw in a scoop of frozen yogurt for dessert.

By LisaLou — On Oct 21, 2011

I always remember reading that honey should not be given to infants under 1 year of age. This is also printed on a lot of labels on bottles of honey as well.

For something that is so good for you, I always wondered why this was not safe for babies. Now I understand that their digestive system isn't ready to handle it.

I think this not only means honey straight from the bottle, but also foods that have honey in them. For example, I was told to not even give my baby honey graham crackers.

We use a lot of honey in our house, and I have always waited until my kids were over a year old to give it to them. I always start out very slowly and just give them a tiny bit at a time to make sure they can handle it OK.

By golf07 — On Oct 20, 2011

If you have ever had a case of food poisoning you know very well how miserable some of these bacteria can make you.

Sometimes if my stomach feels funny after a meal, I will ask my husband if his feels funny, or if it is just me.

Maybe I am a little paranoid, but one time after eating at a restaurant, we both ended up with food poisoning. At first I thought it was just the flu, but this was worse than any flu I ever had.

Since we both had it, we weren't much good at taking care of the other one. I am much more conscious of this now when eating out.

I have always been good about making sure my meat is thoroughly cooked and not contaminating things with utensils that have touched raw meat.

This type of bacteria in your body is not fun, and I want to make sure I avoid it as much as possible.

By jennythelib — On Oct 20, 2011

There are also protozoal illnesses like malaria and toxoplasmosis. (Toxoplasmosis is the one that pregnant women can get and pass along to their unborn child if they change an infected cat's litterbox.) I actually have congenital toxoplasmosis, but fortunately it's a very mild case. We had outdoor cats when my mom was pregnant with me and she probably picked it up in the garden. We had no idea until I was a teenager!

Being infected with it, I naturally found out all I could about it. Apparently, the thing about bacteria is that their cells have no nuclei. The DNA isn't contained like that. Protozoa are a different, more advanced kind of single-celled organisms; their cells have nuclei.

By dfoster85 — On Oct 19, 2011

So many kinds of bacteria, and that's not even getting started on viruses! At least bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. On the other hand, people don't realize that without bacteria, we would die; our guts are full of various bacterial colonies that help us digest our food, including the infamous E. coli.

Babies, if I'm not mistaken, are born without these bacteria, but get them over time. When my baby was born, the doctor told me that meconium, baby's first poop, is actually sterile!

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