What Is Anaerobic Bacteria?


Quick Answer

Anaerobic bacteria are microorganisms which can exist in an environment free of oxygen. Some strains can tolerate the presence of oxygen, others use oxygen when it is present in their environment and still others cannot survive in an environment which contains oxygen.

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Testing for the presence of anaerobic bacteria is particularly tricky due to the toxic effect that exposure to oxygen can have to these creatures. Medical personnel must take care to avoid exposing samples to the air in order to avoid a negative result due to improper handling. This family of microbes can be responsible for many internal bacterial infections, such as meningitis and pneumonia. On the other hand, anaerobic bacteria are also responsible for the fermentation process required for many foods, and some also produce usable compounds, such as tetanus toxoid, which is essential in the prevention of tetanus-related infections.

While anaerobic infections can be extremely dangerous to the patient, not all anaerobic bacteria are necessarily dangerous. Many perform vital functions, such as the anaerobic digestion of organic waste within septic tanks and sewage treatment facilities. Preventing anaerobic infections generally requires potential vectors for the infection to be exposed to the air, or to an oxygen-rich environment, making them relatively uncommon. However, infections which do occur as a result of anaerobic bacteria are extremely dangerous, and patients should receive immediate medical care.

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