Enteric Bacteria: Definition & Types

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

How many bacteria are found in your intestinal tract and what purpose do they serve? Well, take a guess and then read this lesson about enteric bacteria to learn about the staggering amount of bacteria found within the human body.

What Are You?

What or who are you? That's quite a broad question, isn't it? You're likely to say you are an American, a liberal, a Christian, a person or could quantify it and say you are someone who is 32 years old. You probably wouldn't say you are enteric bacteria, or gut bacteria. For the geekier among us, you may say you are a collection of cells, matter, or largely empty space. Your choice.

But in this lesson, you're going to learn that one way to answer the original question is that you are a moving storage tank for bacteria.

What Are Enteric Bacteria?

That's because of all those enteric bacteria. Enteric comes from the Greek word enteron, which literally means intestine. You are, in a sense, nothing more than a vat of bacteria. Never mind the many bacteria living on your skin or in your mouth. Not including those guys, there are about 100,000,000,000,000 bacteria in your intestine. Read: 100 trillion bacteria. That is roughly 10 times more individual, live, bacterial cells in your intestine than the total number of cells that make up your entire body! You are, in some sense, more bacteria than you are human. Of course, these estimates vary as some claim that there are about 40 trillion bacteria (mainly in the gut) and roughly 30 trillion 'human' cells.

Regardless, owing to the large number and diversity of gut bacteria, we know they are crucial to our health. They help digest and absorb the vitamins from our food, and help keep us healthy. They can, however, cause us problems as well. So, the existence and balance of enteric bacteria is clearly very important to our wellbeing.

Examples of Enteric Bacteria

So why don't we look at some types of enteric bacteria, then? Enteric bacteria include:

  • Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, the most common bacterium in our intestine.
  • Lactobacillus, Enterococcus, and Bacteroides can be found in the small intestine. E. coli and other coliforms can be found here as well.
  • E. coli' and other coliforms become more abundant in the large intestine (colon), however. The large intestine also contains enterococci, lactobacilli, and clostridia. More abundantly, you'll find the likes of Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides here, however.
  • Other types of enteric bacteria that can be found in a person include those of the genus Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Proteus, Pseudomonas, Peptostreptococcus, and Peptococcus.

This image shows what E.coli looks like under an electron microscope.

What you must keep in mind is that the true number and variety of enteric bacteria as well as their main locations can vary depending on numerous factors, such as the person's age, diet, as well as medications they may be taking (namely antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria).

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