A microorganism is a creature that is too small to see with the naked eye.
Scientists refer to a living individual, whether a single-celled bacterium or a highly-complex mammal, as an organism. This is because an individual is an "organized" collection of parts or "organs." A microorganism is therefore a very small organism. We usually need a microscope to see these little "bugs."
The 19th century French scientist, Louis Pasteur, was instrumental in increasing our understanding of microorganisms. Since microorganisms were often found in the presense of disease, he propounded the idea that they were the cause of diseasethe so-called germ theory. Pasteur also developed the technique named after him called pasteurization, whereby a liquid (such as milk) is partially sterilized by heat in order to destroy objectionable microorganisms.
Claude Bernard, a contempary of Pasteur, maintained that the cause of disease was the "soil"the human bodyrather than the "germ"the microorganism. Bernard said that pathological microorganisms are opportunistic and merely take advantage of an unhealthy condition in the body. Bernard and Pasteur were engaged in a lifelong argument on this point. It wasn't until Pasteur was on his deathbed that he conceded, "It is the soil."
Today, most conventional medical professionals still cling to the "germ theory." Most holistic health care professionals, on the other hand, consider the "soil" to be the most important factor in disease. This is perhaps the major dividing point between these two approaches. As a result of this difference, conventional medics are always trying to irradicate the "germs" with chemical "pesticides" such as antibiotics, while holistic practitioners attempt to improve the health of the individualparticularly with regard to the immune systemso that the "soil" will be less conducive to the growth of pathological microorganisms and the person's own body will be able to prevent and fight off disease as it was designed to.
Getting back to our lesson: The above story introduces several additional word elements that I should mention. The word pesticide contains the word element -cid which means "to kill." When we realize that the word element sui- means "self," we better understand the word "suicide."
What does the word germicide mean?
A suicidal germ
Something you clean your toilet bowl with
An substance that helps seeds grow
An agent that kills germs