I’ve posted several times in the past about various beneficial uses of bacteria in the built environment, including remediation of art and the idea of probiotics for buildings.
Today I saw a story about using beneficial bacteria in cleaning liquid, which supposedly “reduced bad bacteria by 1,000-fold compared with standard cleaning techniques”. Sounds interesting.
Where it gets confusing is the reporting, both in this article and in the actual product description about what is going on.
On the one hand the article states: “The cleaning product, Chemzyme Plus, uses a friendly bacteria – B.â€‰subtilis – which feed on soil and produce natural antibiotics. These attack and kill the harmful bacteria.”
On the other hand the product website mentions that “It relies on the same principle as probiotic drinks or ‘live’ yoghurts that can help the overall healthiness of our digestive systems. Microbiologists call this principle competitive exclusion.”
Just to be clear, there’s an important difference between “competitive exclusion” (where one species monopolizes the limited resources in an environment thereby preventing other species from thriving) and interspecies bacterial warfare. The idea of probiotics is based on the first principle, you don’t ingest live bacteria in order to hunt down and kill other bacteria… you do it in order to change the makeup of species in your microbial ecosystem, theoretically favoring beneficial bacteria. The same would be true for the (far in the future and theoretical) concept of probiotics for buildings.
Using bacteria to kill other bacteria in the built environment is all fine and good… but it should be made clear what is going on, and what is not going on.