Bacteria are the most numerous life forms on the planet. Bacteria come in various shapes and sizes, and thrive in some of the most inhospitable environments. They live in your body, on your skin, and on objects you use everyday.

Below are 7 surprising things you may not know about bacteria, according to about.com

1. Staph Bacteria Crave Human Blood

Staphylococcus aureus is a common type of bacterium that infects about 30 percent of all people. In some people, it is a part of the normal group of bacteria that inhabit the body, and may be found in areas such as the skin and the nasal cavities.

Vanderbilt University researchers have discovered that staph bacteria prefer human blood over that of animal blood. These bacteria favor the iron which is contained within the haemoglobin – an oxygen-carrying protein – found within red blood cells. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria break open blood cells to obtain the iron within the cells.

2. Bacteria Contribute to Rain-Making

Researchers have discovered that bacteria in the atmosphere may play a part in the production of rain and other forms of precipitation. This process begins as bacteria on plants are swept into the atmosphere by wind. As they rise higher, ice forms around them and they begin to grow larger. Once the frozen bacteria reach a certain threshold, the ice begins to melt and returns to the ground as rain.

Bacteria of the species Psuedomonas syringae have even been found in the center of large hailstones. These bacteria produce a special protein in their cell membranes that allows them bind to water, and helps to promote ice crystal formation.

3. Some Bacteria Fight Acne

Researchers have discovered that some strains of acne bacteria may actually help to prevent acne. The bacterium that causes acne, Propionibacterium acnes dwells in the pores of our skin. When these bacteria induce an immune response, the area swells and produces acne bumps.

Some strains of the acne bacteria however have been found to be less likely to cause acne. These strains may be the reason why people with healthy skin rarely get acne.

4. Gum Bacteria Have Been Linked to Heart Disease

Who would have thought that brushing your teeth could actually help prevent heart disease? Studies have shown that there is a link between gum disease and heart disease. It seems that both bacteria and humans produce particular types of proteins called heat shock or stress proteins.

The problem lies in the fact that the white blood cells cannot distinguish between stress proteins produced by bacteria, and those produced by the body. As a result, the immune system cells also attack the stress proteins that are produced by the body. It is this assault that causes a build-up of white blood cells in the arteries which leads to atherosclerosis, which is a major contributor to heart disease.

5. Soil Bacteria Help You Learn

According to researchers, the soil bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae can increase learning in mammals. Researchers believe that these bacteria are “likely ingested or breathed in” when we spend time outdoors. Mycobacterium vaccae is thought to increase learning by stimulating brain neuron growth resulting in increased levels of serotonin, which is a chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another.

6. Bacteria Can Power Machines

Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory have discovered that Bacillus subtilis bacteria have the ability to turn very small gears. These bacteria are aerobic, meaning that they need oxygen for growth and development. When placed in a solution with the microgears, the bacteria swim into the spokes of the gears and cause them to turn in a specific direction. It takes a few hundred bacteria working in unison to turn the gears.

It was also discovered that the bacteria can turn gears that are connected at the spokes, similar to the gears of a clock. The researchers were able to control the speed at which the bacteria turned the gears by adjusting the amount of oxygen in the solution. Decreasing the amount of oxygen caused the bacteria to slow down. Removing the oxygen caused them to stop moving completely.

7. Bacteria Can Identify You

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder have shown that bacteria found on the skin can be used to identify individuals. The bacteria that reside on your hands are unique to you. Even identical twins have unique skin bacteria. When we touch something, we leave behind our skin bacteria on the item. Through bacterial DNA analysis, specific bacteria on surfaces can be matched to the hands of the person from which they came.

Because bacteria are unique and remain unchanged for several weeks, they can be used as a type of fingerprint.

And that’s the real and scientific story of bacteria.

See Also: The difference between bacteria and viruses