A microorganism or microbe is a microscopic organism (too small to be seen by the naked human eye). The study of microorganisms is called microbiology, a subject that began with Anton van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microorganisms in 1675, using a microscope of his own design.
Microorganisms are incredibly diverse and include bacteria, fungi, archaea, and protists, as well as some microscopic plants and animals such as plankton, and popularly-known animals such as the planarian and the amoeba. They do not include viruses and prions, which are generally classified as non-living.
Microorganisms live in all parts of the biosphere where there is liquid water, including hot springs, on the ocean floor, high in the atmosphere and deep inside rocks within the Earth's crust. Microbes are also exploited by people in biotechnology, both in traditional food and beverage preparation, as well as modern technologies based on genetic engineering. However, pathogenic microbes are harmful, since they invade and grow within other organisms, causing diseases that kill millions of people, other animals, and plants.
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