Bug Wars

by Inga Yandell

Bug Wars

When was the last time you got a little dirty?

What about Winter—surely ‘flu-season’ warrants extra wipe-up precautions and microbial measures?

But, should we fear all bacteria—or, could certain bugs be our allies against virus-invading, invisible microbes?

Michelle Perkins demystifies the debate surrounding biotic’s to reveal the hidden magic of microbes!

Before we’re able to walk and talk, we’re taught that germs are bad. I learned from a very young age what was expected of me to stave off the nasties that would creep up if I didn’t wash my hands, clean behind my ears, or clean up after myself.

What I then understood to be germs I now know to be bacteria, of which many are beneficial to us—in fact, according to molecular biologist Bonnie Bassler, we have ten times as many bacterial cells in and on us at any one time as we do actual human cells. In her excellent TED talk from 2009, Bonnie also explains that while a person is made up of 30,000 genes, as you read this, your body is a very cosy home to 3,000,000 bacterial genes.

It was while listening to Bonnie joyfully inform us that it’s this bacteria that keeps us alive, that it keeps the bad stuff away and helps our bodies thrive, that I started to think about the implications of what harming that bacteria could mean for my family’s health. We’ve since become the first business to create and manufacture probiotic cleaning products in Australia. A probiotic is a substance that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria; over the past few years, Australians have become increasingly familiar with ingestible probiotic products as more brands become available and the competing marketing start to stack up.

There are countless types of bacteria, but they all have certain things in common. For example, a bacterial cell has a single function, which it performs when it reaches a critical mass of numbers of cells. Another behaviour in common among all bacteria is how they reach that critical mass, by consuming nutrients in their environment, growing, dividing into two bacterial organisms and repeating.

Any probiotic product, whether it be something you swallow to improve gut health or, in our case, use as a cleaning solution in the home, works by applying a critical mass of beneficial bacteria to the environment. That bacteria consumes nutrients from that environment − which in the case of a probiotic cleaning product, will include potentially harmful bacteria, such as salmonella and e-coli.

Adding friendly bacteria to your home helps create an eco-system of health cells that neutralise microbes that can harm humans and pets. I know our products are all based on a culture that includes different types of bacteria that have been proven to help against, for example, symptoms of IBS, yeast infections, lactose intolerance, diarrhoea, influenza and common colds. These bacteria have also been shown to be beneficial when addressing allergies, in helping the absorption of cholesterol, and in the treatment of depression.

When I started to think about Bonnie Bassler’s explanations of the role of bacteria in keeping us healthy, it put the promises of regular cleaning products into perspective. A cleaner that promises to kill 99.9 per cent of germs is actually saying that it’ll kill all the bacteria in your home, both good and bad—and while no-one wants harmful bacteria growing on a kitchen benchtop or shower recess, removal of beneficial bacteria is actually missing an opportunity to make our homes healthier.

These products operate on a scorched-earth policy. For the minutes during which they remain wet, they will kill every living thing they come into contact with. Immediately after that—and especially given most bacteria are airborne—your surfaces will become repopulated with the harmful bacteria you’re trying to remove.

In comparison, a probiotic cleaner applies a living barrier of healthy bacteria that promotes growth of the building blocks that help to inoculate you and your family against the pathogens and other microbes that cause us harm. One big thing that attracted me to a probiotic-based alternative was that it is by its very nature a living, completely natural culture of bio-based ingredients, which eliminated my reliance on synthetic chemicals in my home. Like any mad scientist, we trialled our products in our own home first. I can only talk anecdotally about those benefits, but I know my family gets sick far less frequently, we have less issues with allergies and hay fever, and we generally feel healthier.

Since we started selling Probiotic Solutions last year, we’ve had the likes of chiropractor and holistic lifestyle coach Dr Jeremy Princi actively come forward to champion what we’re trying to do, and encourage patients to give probiotic cleaners a try as a safer and healthier alternative to conventional products and cleaning methods. I know for me and my family—and for a growing community of families like ours − being more aware of what we put in our homes is just as important as what we put in our bodies. We’re living a healthier and happier life as a result.

Michelle Perkins is one of the founders of Probiotics Solutions, the first Australian-made range of 100% natural probiotic cleaning products. 

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Inga Yandell
Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.
Inga Yandell

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