What Is a Contaminant in Microbiology?

Microbiological contaminants are infectious materials, such as bacteria, mold, fungi and viruses. These contaminants, which are often found in food and water, can cause serious illnesses.

One of the most common microbiological contaminants is the Escherichia coli bacteria, or E. coli. Certain varieties of E. coli exist naturally in the body, but the strain known as E. coli O157:H7 causes severe vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Infections from E. coli O157:H7 occur from consuming contaminated food or water. Microbiological infections must be treated immediately with antibiotics or antiviral medications. Failure to do so can result in life-threatening conditions, such as kidney failure and liver damage.