The field of microbiology has traditionally been concerned with and focused on studies at the population level. Information on how cells respond to their environment, interact with each other, or undergo complex processes such as cellular differentiation or gene expression has been obtained mostly by inference from population-level data. New appreciation for the existence and importance of cellular heterogeneity, coupled with recent advances in technology, has driven the development of new tools and techniques for the study of individual microbial cells. As a result, scientists have been able to characterize microorganisms and their activities at unprecedented levels of detail.
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