Most bacteria are heterotrophic, living off other organisms. Most of these are saprobes, bacteria that live off dead organic matter. The bacteria that cause disease are heterotrophic parasites. There are also many non-disease-causing bacterial parasites, many of which are helpful to their hosts. These include the "normal flora" of the human body.
Autotrophic bacteria manufacture their own food by the processes of photosynthesis and chemosynthesis (see autotroph). The photosynthetic bacteria include the green and purple bacteria and the cyanobacteria. Many of the thermophilic archaebacteria are chemosynthetic autotrophs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.