By: Jack Eaton

Characteristics of Bacteria

All Bacteria have these three things in common:

  • Most bacteria are smaller than our own cells. They are usually microscopic.
  • They are prokaryotic, so they are unicellular.
  • Lack membrane bound organelles.

Bacterial Cell Wall

  • Bacteria can have two different types of cell walls: The gram-positive cell wall and the gram-negative cell wall.
  • The cell wall protects bacteria lysis, chemical assault, and attacks on the immune system.
  • The cell wall is in charge of the transportation of vital chemicals coming in and out of the cell.
  • The cell wall consists of inner (plasma) membrane, a rigid exoskeleton, and in some cases an outer membrane.

The Three Basic Shapes of Bacteria

Bacterial Movement

Bacteria can move in several different ways. However, not all bacteria can move.

  • Most bacteria move using flagella.
  • Some bacteria may lash themselves forward.
  • Others might spiral forward.
  • They use their appendages to move forward.

How Bacteria Obtain Energy

Bacteria can obtain energy in different ways. It depends on what type of bacteria it is.

  • They can obtain energy by ingesting other organisms.
  • They can produce their own energy.

Bacteria Reproduction

Bacteria can reproduce at an amazing rate, if the conditions are favorable.

  • Bacteria are asexual.
  • Most bacteria reproduce in a process known as binary fission. This is when the cell replicates itself and creates an identical bacteria.
  • Bacteria can also reproduce using conjugation and endospore to help them reproduce.
Bacteria for Kids - Animation Video

Harmful and Helpful Bacteria

Bacteria can both helpful and harmful. There are a lot of harmful bacteria. However, we would not be able to live if we did not have the helpful bacteria.

  • Helpful bacteria include E. Coli, Streptomyces, and Rhizobium.
  • Harmful bacteria include Listeriosis and Salmonella.

Many of these helpful bacteria help us perform important jobs, such as digesting food. However, bacteria can also be very harmful to human beings.

Harmful Bacteria in History

There have been approximately three life threatening bacteria in the past. All three have come in the form of plagues.

  • Justinian Plague: This was the first form of the Bubonic Plague. It killed over 25 million people.
  • Black Plague: Killed an estimated 75 to 200 million people. This plague was caused by a bacteria mainly found in rodents, and in the fleas that fed on them. Humans contracted the bacteria from rodent or flea bites.
  • The Modern Plague: This plague was spread by rats on steamships. This plague started in China and now it is seen in some cases in the U.S. This plague is highly treated, but over 20 million deaths have been caused by this plague.


There are many treatments for these plagues.

  • Treatment for the bubonic plague include antibiotics.
  • These treatments can be swallowed, injected, and sometimes can even involve quarantine.
  • Sterilization, disinfectants, and food processing are also used to prevent bacterial diseases and bacteria growth.

10 Diseases caused by Bacteria

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