How Valued Are Microorganisms?

In 2013, India held a vote to choose a “national microbe”: Lactobacillus, widely used in yogurt production, won.
In 2013, India held a vote to choose a “national microbe”: Lactobacillus, widely used in yogurt production, won.

Like most countries, India likes to boast about its most prized attributes, so it has adopted the Bengal tiger as its national animal, the Indian lotus as its national flower, and the mango as its national fruit. And in 2013, it added a rather more unusual symbol: Lactobacillus is now India's national microbe.

Lactobacillus, a genus of bacteria that is a necessary ingredient in the production of curds, yogurt, and many other favorite foods of India, beat out rhizobium, blue mold, spirogyra, and other microbes to earn the prestigious status. According to the Centre for Environment Education and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which sponsored the naming of the new symbol, the project was undertaken to spread awareness of the importance of microorganisms. To name the microbe, the government held a vote at educational institutions throughout the country. People were also able to vote online.

More on microorganisms:

  • Every person has approximately 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of bacteria in their body.

  • The strongest living things on Earth are gonorrhea bacteria, which can pull 100,000 times their own weight.

  • Despite their popularity, probiotic supplements have no proven benefit to human health.

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    • In 2013, India held a vote to choose a “national microbe”: Lactobacillus, widely used in yogurt production, won.
      In 2013, India held a vote to choose a “national microbe”: Lactobacillus, widely used in yogurt production, won.