New Research Finds Probiotic Cleaning Is Effective Against All Viruses Including COVID-19
Following on from the extensive research on probiotics we’ve looked at in the past (see the full summary of each major study from 2014 to date here), new and exciting research from Italy has tested and proven the efficacy of probiotic cleaning agents in the fight against COVID-19.
Context of this latest study:
The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply influenced everyone’s cleaning and sanitisation procedures. High-level disinfection has been extensively used to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, but it has most certainly come with potential negative impacts on our environment and contributes to the serious threat posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
The researchers leading this latest study (published in November 2021), aimed to identify how effective sanitisation and cleaning activity could be preserved while also using probiotics which in their past studies have been proven time and time again to be an effective eco-friendly and more sustainable.
In previous research within healthcare settings – the team had identified probiotic detergents were able to consistently abate pathogen contamination over sustained periods and reduce the risks associated with AMR. Their previous results were very positive:
- probiotic cleaning agents stably reduced resistant pathogens by 80%
- probiotics reduced associated hospital infections by 52% and;
- probiotics for cleaning had a relevant positive impact on antimicrobial resistance (60% decrease) leading to a 75% reduction in healthcare-associated infection costs
The great debate – do probiotic cleaning agents work against Coronavirus?
Current guidelines for COVID-19 management suggest using high level disinfectants for cleaning and sanitisation. However, despite their rapid action, there is no warranty of long-lasting action to stably maintain the environment that has been decontaminated. In reality, research has proven that recently sanitised environments can be rapidly re-contaminated posing increased risk to human health. In high traffic areas, this can lead to persistently high contamination levels for most of the day.
We know that COVID-19 is an enveloped virus. Many enveloped viruses have been shown to retain infectivity for long periods on hard surfaces making them a special concern for facilities managers. Serious and often potentially viruses (including coronaviruses, influenza, herpesviruses, hepatitis B and C, and HIV-1) remain infectious on surfaces and fomites for long periods. (A fomite or fomes for anyone wondering is any inanimate object that, when contaminated with or exposed to infectious pathogens can transfer disease to a new host – e.g. clothes, utensils, and furniture).
Among the viruses that might be transmitted by the contaminated environment, human coronaviruses can persist on different inanimate surfaces and remain infectious from 2 hours up to 9 days at room temperature. Other similar viruses like Influenza Type A can last up to 13 days on glass and steel. This led the team to investigate the effect of probiotics on viruses in particular.
The search for a more sustainable and eco-friendly way to clean during a pandemic
It’s a known fact that excessive use of heavy chemical disinfectants is a threat to human health (especially in low-risk healthcare or non-healthcare environments), and that their use
negatively impacts on the environment and aquatic ecosystems.
The researchers in this study aimed to identify if alternate methods could be as good, or better, than our usual go to chemical cleaning and disinfecting solutions.
The study cites:
Some compounds used for disinfection have been proven to select or induce antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in pathogens, including those known to have an important impact on COVID-19 clinical care. Considering that AMR microbes can complicate the care of COVID-19 patients, and that AMR alone is already killing millions of people each year (over 37,000 people only in the European Union), it is apparent that a further spread of AMR might worsen the toll of future pandemics.
Consequently, there is an urgent need for simple, efficient, low-impact, and possibly low-cost procedures to ensure a durable sanitization of treated surfaces, overcoming the side effects linked to chemical disinfection.
Here researchers assessed the antiviral properties of their Probiotic Cleaning Hygiene System (PCHS) vs common disinfectants. Aiming to obtain a long-term effective cleaning procedure, that could stably reduce viral contamination without impacting on environmental pollution and AMR, they tested the antiviral properties of the same products they had previously tested and found to prevent pathogen recontamination in hospitals.
They were testing both the decontaminating properties and the preventative powers of probiotic cleaning agents, comparing them to the performance of standard cleaning disinfectants.
The probiotic cleaning detergents used for this research, (in case you were about to ask) uses the same active probiotic ingredients as those used at The Clean Space (non-pathogenic Bacilli).
The team tested various suspension and surface procedures with a variety of concentrations (including the 1:100 dilution recommended for routine daily cleaning. Comparing these detergents to the most commonly recommended chemical cleaners they looked to establish the virucidal properties of each.
Based on these past observations, the team assessed the probiotics antiviral efficiency on different enveloped viruses known to be able to persist on surfaces for long periods. Tests were done in-vitro and included processing samples of human Coronaviruses (HCoV-229E and SARS-CoV-2, HSV-1 specifically), type A influenza viruses of human and animal origin, and the modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA), (this virus being the most resistant among enveloped viruses and for this reason mandatorily included in the European standard procedures used to assess the antiviral properties of disinfectants).
The team’s past research had indicated that the action of traditional disinfectants may be temporary and not able to prevent recontamination, which occurs continuously due to continuous spread by people present in any confined space. They were particularly keen to identify the differences in this declining action over time and whether live probiotics could overcome this sharp decline in protection which is seen with chemical cleaning products.
The results showed that the probiotic cleaning solutions were able to inactivate 99.99% of all tested viruses within 1–2 hours of contact, both in a suspension and on surfaces.
Notably, while control disinfectants became inactive within 2 hours after application, the probiotic antiviral action persisted up to 24 hours post application. This suggests that its use may effectively allow a continuous prevention of virus spread, without worsening environmental pollution or the likelihood of AMR.
- The tests performed with probiotics on Coronaviruses and the most highly resistant MVA viruses, evidenced a high inactivation activity both in decontamination and in prevention.
- Notably, probiotic-treated surfaces completely inactivated viruses, even 24 hours after treatment. By comparison the surfaces treated with disinfectants did not maintain their inactivating ability over time (up to 2 hours only).
- 2 hours after application, one of the disinfectants used actually had its effectiveness drop below the minimum threshold needed for it to be considered as a ‘virucidal’ agent. Beyond 2 hours from application, the antiviral activity of both the chemical disinfectants tested had disappeared completely.
- The results showed that probiotics were active on all enveloped viruses at all dilutions in a time-dependent manner. In particular, the 1:100 dilution completely inactivated within 1 h all tested viruses except for MVA, which was inactivated in 2 h.
- It is proposed that the presence of enzymes in probiotics that are capable of processing lipids, proteins, and sugars, support the hypothesis that such cleaning agents could chemically degrade the outer components of enveloped viruses, achieving successful virus inactivation.
- To manage the varying infectious activity times for more resistant viruses, the study indicated higher concentrations of probiotic detergents were beneficial. Higher concentrations can be also used to obtain inactivation in shorter periods (e.g. after an confirmed case).
- The surfactants contained in detergent are known to disrupt and damage the envelope of viruses and may thus account at least in part for the probiotics’ antiviral action. It is however the active enzymes in the Bacilli strain of probiotics that is likely to contribute to the continuous cleaning action witnessed.
The researchers summarised by saying probiotics were found to be a “low-cost, affordable system, which is also important for cost-saving” and making them “applicable in non-sanitary environments such as schools, offices, public transport” etc.
In light of its effective long-lasting antiviral activity and characteristics of sustainability, probiotic-based sanitation may be considered as a novel and safe option for the control and prevention of the spread of various enveloped viruses including SARS-CoV-2.
Most interestingly, while disinfectants became inactive within 1 to 2 hours, respectively, depending on the compound, probiotic cleaning agents maintained their antiviral properties on surfaces even 24 hours after application, this suggests that daily probiotic sanitation (as usually performed in routine cleaning) may assure a continuous, stably decontaminated environment.
If you’d like to find out first hand how Probiotic Cleaning can help your organisation stay clean ans safe, while protecting the environment at the same time, please get in touch.
We’d love to show you how affordable and beneficial the switch to probiotic cleaning can be. You can read more about the extensive benefits here.