Microbes such as bacteria and fungi help in the production of alcoholic beverages, antibiotics, acids, enzymes and other chemicals on an industrial level. Naturally, the underlying principle in preparing beverages on a large scale is fermentation. In industries, microbes are grown in fermentors to make beverages like wine, beer, whisky, brandy and rum on a large scale. Saccharomyces cerevisiae commonly known as brewer’s yeast, ferments different malted cereals and fruit juices to produce ethanol. Different alcoholic drinks are prepared, depending on the substrate used for fermentation and the type of processing. Low alcoholic content beverages are prepared by the fermentation of starch products, while high alcoholic content beverages are produced by the distillation of fermented malted barley, grape juice and molasses.
Antibiotics are the chemicals produced by the microbes, which can kill disease-causing microbes. Penicillin was the first antibiotic discovered by Alexander Fleming. But the curative effect of penicillin against various infectious diseases was put forward by Ernest Chain and Howard Florey. Many antibiotics like actinomycin, streptothricin and neomycin, were produced by different species of streptomyces. Since then, more antibiotics are used in curing various diseases such as diphtheria, leprosy, plague and whooping cough.
Microbes are also used in producing organic acids. Acetobacter, Clostridium butylicum and Lactobacillus produce acetic acid, butyric acid and lactic acid respectively. Lipases produced from Candida rugosa and Aspergillus niger, are used in detergents to remove oil stains, while pectinases and proteases produced by Aspergillus niger are used in bottled fruit juices for clarification.
The products produced from microbes have medical applications too, streptokinase removes clots, statins act as a blood-cholesterol lowering agent, cyclosporin acts as an immuno-suppressant to organ transplant patients.