Bring back the microbes!
Instead of closing the doors, now is the time to invite them in.
The life-altering reality of COVID-19 has turned many of us into enthusiastic cleaners – keeping every surface and contact point sterile and germ free. While this cleaning and disinfecting vigilance has been highly effective at killing all viral particles, it has led to new concerns that we are inadvertently altering our microbiomes – the community of diverse microorganisms that we rely on for good health.
This was the subject of a recent article in the New York times “Can we learn to live with germs again?”. “We’re starting to realize that there’s collateral damage when we get rid of good microbes and that has major consequences for our health,” said B. Brett Finlay, Professor at the University of British Colombia, Canada.
He is one of the authors of a paper raising the alarm about the microbial fallout that may follow the pandemic. And Professor Finlay is not the only scientist to be concerned. Experts highlighting this health risk have become a regular feature in the mainstream media.
It might sound unappealing, but microbes live on every part of the human body, our hair, our skin, in our guts and up our noses. In fact, microbes have been isolated from every environment that humans have explored so far on earth. But far from being harmful, these microorganisms form the basis of a healthy microbiome that can protect us from illnesses, allergies, and autoimmune diseases throughout our lives.
Early exposure to microorganisms is the essence of the “hygiene hypothesis,” a theory introduced in 1989 by the epidemiologist David Strachan. The theory states that contact with microbes from an early age allows us to develop an immune system that responds appropriately. Although the hypothesis has evolved and is still being discussed, all experts agree on two things: exposure to diverse bacteria and microbes is necessary for good health, and living in too-sterile environments can threaten our health in ways we still don’t fully understand.
So, faced with the paradox of wanting to remove harmful microbes yet needing a diverse microbiome, how can we keep our environment clean and healthy? One of the newest solutions to this complex issue is to use an active probiotic cleaner.
Microbial-based cleaners are the next generation of green cleaning
There are numerous cleaning products currently on the market to solve consumer pain points. Some remove food soils, others kill microbes, and some do both. Microbial-based cleaners, commonly known as probiotic cleaners, should be designed to work alongside green chemistry but add additional benefits to tackle soil residues.
When you wipe a surface with a probiotic cleaner, you leave behind beneficial microbes that can deliver cleaning power for days at a time. The bacteria remain in even the tiniest crevices – where they are positioned to break down and remove left behind soil residues. This helps to influence the delicate balance of the microbiome in your home.
The microbes in probiotic cleaners, specifically Bacillus species, have demonstrated activity on commonly found soils in the home. Furthermore, as a spore former, these microbes can survive the manufacturing process, and remain stable in a bottle while on a supermarket shelf.
A more sustainable clean
But the biggest benefit of probiotic cleaners is their sustainability and safety profile. Bacteria used in probiotic cleaners are low risk organisms found all around us – in the air we breathe, the water we swim in, and in the dirt we dig. There will always be a time and a place for using a disinfectant but the more we learn about the impact of certain cleaning chemicals on human health, the greater the interest in “greener” and more natural cleaning products. And this is where probiotic cleaners have a role to play.
As we re-open our doors and readjust to our natural world after pandemic restrictions and social distancing, we can expect our natural exposure to microbes to increase. Hugs, handshakes, and social occasions facilitate the exchange of microbes we need to boost our microbiome.
Perhaps it is time to consider the role that microbes play in our lives and embrace them for what they can do. Instead of closing the doors on our microbial neighbors maybe now is the time to invite them around to clean.