In ancient times, people were not aware that they were using micro-organisms in their daily lives, but the reality is that they were when they performed activities such as percolating wood through wood shavings in order to create vinegar. This illustrates that using micro-organisms has been around for a very long time.
The above practice, and others such as transforming grapes into wine and transforming a yeast solution in to beer are early examples of biotechnology, and as knowledge grew, so did the use of micro-organisms.
Lactobacillus acidophilus was discovered and so yogurt could be made; different bacteria created cheeses, and fermenting cabbage produced sauerkraut.
In the agricultural world, it was discovered that Rhizobium spp. Could convert elemental nitrogen so that it was useful to growing plants, which led to using micro-organisms to create fertilizer.
In more recent times, micro-organisms have been recognized for providing many positive things and as such the biotechnology industry has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar sector throughout the world.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) et al
The discovery of DNA and various species of RNA (ribonucleic acid) and the different processes that manufacture protein from nucleic acid templates has led to huge advances in the use of micro-organisms, which have led scientists to be able to create designer genes.
Other medical benefits of micro-organisms
The common intestinal tract bacterium Escherichia coli are now used to produce insulin in large quantities. Because it is identical to the insulin produced by humans, there is very little chance of an adverse reaction.
Other micro-organisms are used in the production of antibiotics, which have proved themselves to be invaluable and very often life saving for both humans and for animals.
The pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on micro-organisms in the production of a vast array of drugs that are used in the treatment of many diseases, including cystic fibrosis, hepatitis B and cancer.