Las bacterias son microorganismos procariotas que presentan un tamaño de unos pocos micrómetros y diversas formas, incluyendo esferas (cocos), barras (bacilos), filamentos, curvados (vibrios) y helicoidales. Las bacterias son células procariotas, por lo que, a diferencia de las células eucariotas, no tienen el núcleo definido ni presentan, en general, orgánulos membranosos internos. Generalmente poseen una pared celular y esta se compone de peptidoglicano. Muchas bacterias disponen de flagelos o de otros sistemas de desplazamiento y son móviles. Del estudio de las bacterias se encarga la bacteriología, una rama de la microbiología.
Bacteria are ubiquitous, mostly free-living organisms often consisting of one biological cell. They constitute a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria were among the first life forms to appear on Earth, and are present in most of its habitats. Bacteria inhabit soil, water, acidic hot springs, radioactive waste, and the deep biosphere of Earth's crust. Bacteria are vital in many stages of the nutrient cycle by recycling nutrients such as the fixation of nitrogen from the atmosphere. The nutrient cycle includes the decomposition of dead bodies; bacteria are responsible for the putrefaction stage in this process. In the biological communities surrounding hydrothermal vents and cold seeps, extremophile bacteria provide the nutrients needed to sustain life by converting dissolved compounds, such as hydrogen sulphide and methane, to energy. Bacteria also live in symbiotic and parasitic relationships with plants and animals. Most bacteria have not been characterised and there are many species that cannot be grown in the laboratory. The study of bacteria is known as bacteriology, a branch of microbiology.