Author: Alec Basson

​​WolfaardtIf you mention the word bacteria, chances are that most people would think about infections. What we often fail to realise is that some of these micro-organisms are actually good for us.

This was the view of Prof Gideon Wolfaardt of the Department of Microbiology at Stellenbosch University on Monday (24 November 2014). He was the speaker at the sixth Stellenbosch Forum lecture of 2014.

The Stellenbosch Forum lecture series provides regular opportunities to staff and students at SU, as well as interested people from the public, to learn more about the relevant and world-class research that is being done at SU.

Wolfaardt said some microorganisms play a crucial role in ecosystem services such as the provision of clean air, water, soil, and energy, as well as sewage purification.

“They are also vital for our immune system.”

Wolfaardt pointed to the huge diversity of microorganisms in and around us.

“There are up to 10 times more bacterial cells in our bodies than human cells. Typically, more than 500 species can be living in human intestines at any given moment.”

Wolfaardt said microorganisms have a tremendous ability to adapt to the environment. He expressed concern that some bacteria have become resistant to well-known antibiotics.

Wolfaardt mentioned that it remains a challenge to fight bacteria that cause infections in hospitals.

He said it is important that researchers in various disciplines work together in this regard.

  • Prof Gideon Wolfaardt is the holder of the ERWAT Chair in Water Research and also Director of the Stellenbosch University Water Institute. ​

Photo: Prof Gideon Wolfaardt speaking at the sixth Stellenbosch Forum lecture.

Photographer: Justin Alberts

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