Antony van Leeuwenhoek is the discoverer of bacteria and other microorganisms. However, his name is currently not as well-known as those of Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch or Shibasaburo Kitasato. Why not? To answer this question I read a book published in 1932 by Clifford Dobell, an English protozoologist, and found some answers. First, Leeuwenhoek was not a professional scientist in any university or scientific institute, but merely an average citizen in Delft, Holland, working as a merchant in his own shop, and later he also served as an office-holder in Delft city hall. Second, he made and invented his own microscopes but never made his work on microscopes and observation techniques widely known to the public. Accordingly, after his death, his excellent techniques for observing microorganisms were not handed down to the next generation and eventually became forgotten by the scientific community. Although he did not write any scientific paper, he did write about his observations in many letters addressed to the Royal Society of London. Dr. Dobell had translated most of them into English and included them in his book. I picked up and translated several of these letters into Japanese and have included them in this review to show how he described his observations and also what he thought about the presence of such small animals invisible to the naked eye. By reading this review I hope you will come to understand the efforts and abilities of a citizen in Delft about 340 years ago.
Many different kinds of bacteria are normally found in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. To study the ecology and function of these intestinal bacteria, the culture method was fundamental until recent years, and suitable agar plates such as non-selective agar plates and several selective agar plates have been developed. Furthermore, the roll-tube, glove box, and plate-in-bottle methods have also been developed for the cultivation of fastidious anaerobes that predominantly colonize the intestine. Until recently, the evaluation of functional foods such as pre- and probiotics was mainly done using culture methods, and many valuable data were produced. On the other hand, genomic analysis such as the fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), quantitative PCR (qPCR), clone-library, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), temperature gradient gel electrophoresis (TGGE), terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) methods, and metagenome analysis have been used for the investigation of intestinal microbiota in recent years. The identification of bacteria is done by investigation of the phenotypic characteristics in culture methods, while rRNA genes are used as targets in genomic analysis. Here, I compare the fecal bacteria identified by various analytical methods.
Studies on outbreaks or incidences of infectious diseases and food poisonings are the starting points in research. Analyses of the outbreaks will provide the mechanism by which the illnesses occur and the establishment of countermeasure. We report here some sensational outbreaks which recently occurred in Japan: 1) enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157 outbreaks by pickled Chinese cabbage in Hokkaido, 2) EHEC O157/O111 outbreaks by raw beef in Toyama Prefecture, 3) parasitic food poisoning due to raw olive flounder consumption in the western Japan, and 4) botulism due to the consumption of vacuum packed food in Tottori Prefecture.