International Microorganism Day 2021


17 September is International Microorganism Day, an annual celebration of microbiology. This day is an opportunity to promote the diversity and variety of microorganisms. It is a way to encourage everyone to recognize and celebrate the many ways microscopic organisms are important in human health, culture, economic activity, employment and, throughout our daily lives. 



We are supporting the Portugese Society of Microbiology in organising IMD for two consecutive years now. For 2021, given that the pandemic is still ongoing, we are focusing our efforts on online activities. We are making an even greater effort to promote the positive contributions of microorganisms in our daily lives, given the negative stories associated with viruses in the news, and the microbiological knowledge to fight new and more traditional pathogens.


How does IMD look like this year?


A little bit about International Microorganism Day

International Microorganism Day is an initiative launched by the Portuguese Society of Microbiology in 2017 to combine science dissemination activities. Since that initial edition, celebrations have been held in Portugal and internationally but also online under a cohesive identity through logos and mascots produced in Portugal. It has been supported by the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS) to increase the size and impact of these events and especially in 2020, to present the positive aspects of microorganisms.

The scientific study of microorganisms began with their observation under the microscope in the 1670s by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. 17 of September was chosen to acknowledge the date in 1683 van Leeuwenhoek – a Dutch merchant with no formal education – sent a letter to the Royal Society in London, reporting the first description of a single-celled organism. In the 1850s, Louis Pasteur found that microorganisms caused food spoilage and Robert Koch in the 1880s discovered that microorganisms caused the diseases tuberculosis, cholera, and anthrax.


At the focus of this day are microorganisms!

Microorganisms and their activities have widespread, significant, and generally positive effects on the health and well‐being of human beings, the entire surface of the planet, and its atmosphere. Microbes, invisible to the human eye, are the hidden power in many everyday activities, serving to ferment foods and treat sewage, to produce fuel, enzymes, and other bioactive compounds and are a vital component of fertile soil. In the human body, microorganisms make up the human microbiota, including the essential gut flora. The pathogens responsible for many infectious diseases are also microbes and as such are the target of disease prevention and control measures.

Microorganisms include all unicellular organisms and so are extremely diverse. They live in almost every habitat from the poles to the equator, deserts, geysers, rocks, and the deep sea. Some are adapted to extremes such as very hot or very cold conditions, others to high pressure, and a few to high radiation environments. There is evidence that 3.45-billion-year-old Australian rocks once contained microorganisms, the earliest direct evidence of life on Earth.

However, unlike other subjects having a significant impact upon humankind, knowledge of these vital microbial activities, how they impact our lives, and how they may be harnessed for the benefit of humankind – microbiology literacy – is low among the public and decision makers. An understanding of key microbial activities is essential in society for informed personal decisions, as well as for policy development in government and business.

We hope this can be addressed by microbiologists, microbiological learned societies, microbiology‐literate professionals, and all microbe lovers around their world sharing their passion and knowledge of microbes and their value to all humankind on 17 September. Microbiologists from across the globe will be contributing to International Microorganism Day, developing appealing teaching materials, introducing research in an engaging way, sharing interesting facts and stories about microorganisms and their impact. We hope to demonstrate to educators, policy makers, business leaders and relevant governmental and non‐governmental agencies the significance of microorganism and the need for education support increased understanding of their importance and significance and through this, microbiology literacy in society will become reality.


Information for Editors
  • A full media pack including logos, images and the International Microorganism Day mascots is available here.
  • The social media hashtags for the event are #InternationalMicroorganismDay #WhyMicroMatters and #MicrobiologyIsEverywhere
  • The story of why 17th September was chosen as IMD and the discovery of microbes by Antonie van Leeuvwenhoek is here.
  • All media enquiries should be sent to Joe Shuttleworth (FEMS Science Communications Officer)

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