Germs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Microscope | Free SVGA germ is a common term for a tiny organism (so tiny that you can only see it through a microscope) that causes a disease in a plant or animal. The term ‘germ’ is a catch-all word for several different kinds of organisms including bacteria, viruses, protozoans and fungi. Check out Encyclopaedia Britannica online for loads more info on these amazing (and sometimes deadly) little beings: Encyclopaedia Britannica | Germs

Covid-19 is a germ called a virus.

Probably the most well-known and infamous germ of modern times is the germ that causes Covid-19! For the past two years, the world has been living with a global pandemic because of Covid-19.

The Covid-19 germ is a virus called a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that affect animals. Occasionally, coronaviruses have been known to move from animals to humans. The coronavirus we’re talking about today is a new virus, which has caused COVID-19.

On its own, a virus, like coronavirus, is lifeless. However, it becomes active when it infects, or enters, a cell of an animal or a plant. Once inside a cell, a virus can reproduce itself, like living things can.

How can we stop ourselves getting sick?

There will always be times in your life when you get sick – you can’t avoid it! But there are some simple things you can do every day to help you stay healthy and prepare you body to fight the germs:

  1. Eat healthily, with loads of fruit and vegetables, so that you build and maintain a healthy immune system. Your immune system will help you fight off the germs that want to get into your body.
  2. Wash your hands regularly, using soap and water – especially after using the bathroom and before you eat.
  3. Don’t spread the germs amongst your friends by going out when you’re sick, and cough and sneeze into your elbow so that the germs stay off your hands.
  4. If you feel really sick, you should go to your doctor and follow their advice.

Good germs vs. bad germs

Not all germs are bad. Some types of bacteria actually help people’s bodies stay healthy. There are good bacteria that live inside your intestines that help you digest your food so that all the nutrients get to the places they need to get to. Other good bacteria are used to make medicines that fight sicknesses.

Sir Alexander Fleming, Frs, the Discoverer of Penicillin Art.IWMARTLD4217 - PICRYL Public Domain Image

Sir Alexander Fleming working in his lab. Image: Public domain

Did you know? The first anti-bacterial medicine, or antibiotic, was discovered by mistake by a Scottish bacteriologist called Alexander Fleming in 1928. Penicillin was named after the green mould called Pennicilium notatum which had contaminated dishes in Dr Fleming’s lab while he was on holiday. When he got back he found that the penicillin was killing the bacteria he’d been growing! Find out more about Dr. Fleming by borrowing his biography from the library.

Want to do more germ research online?

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Want to do more germ research in the library?

The giant book of germs / Hendry, Lorna
“How many germs live on your hand? How do germs make you sick? Do the germs in your gut really keep you healthy? Discover many more surprising facts in The Giant Book of Germs!” (Catalogue)

It’s catching : the infectious world of germs and microbes / Gardy, Jennifer
“Presents general information about different types of germs, as well as the diseases they cause, and how people work to prevent them from spreading.” (Catalogue)

Dirty Bertie : germs / MacDonald, Alan
“Join Bertie as he attempts to catch sister Suzy’s horrible illness, finds himself partnering Gran at a dancing competition and meets his match in the new babysitter who’s even grubbier than he is!” (Catalogue)

Little bunny, big germs / Wells, Rosemary
“Saying nope to soap, little bunny soon learns the importance of protecting himself and others from germs when he catches a cold and is sent home from school.” (Catalogue)

Dr. Dog / Cole, Babette
“Common sense advice with some good rude fun. Both pet and personal physician to the Gumboyle family, Doctor Dog is always on hand with the perfect diagnosis and remedy for every complaint.” (Catalogue)

Wash your hands / McNamara, Margaret
“When everyone in Ms. Connor’s first grade class has a cold, she shows her students how to wash their hands to get rid of germs.” (Catalogue)

Alexander Fleming / Tames, Richard
“Describes the life of Alexander Fleming, his bacteriological research and the importance of the discovery of penicillin.” (Catalogue)

Keep it clean: germ free / Minden, Cecilia
“Level 1 guided reader that teaches students how to prevent the spread of germs by washing hands and the importance of cleanup.” (Catalogue)

What are germs? / Daynes, Katie
“What are germs? How do they spread? And how do medicines help? Curious young children can take a closer look at those mischievous, microscopic bacteria and viruses in this fascinating introduction to germs and hygiene, with 30 flaps to lift and tips on hand-washing and staying healthy.” (Catalogue)