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Controlling Microbes A Critical Evaluation of Home & Personal Care Products

by Clean India Journal Editor
1 comment

As we navigate through our daily lives, questions about the presence and control of microbes in our environment frequently arise. Are germs truly ubiquitous? Do we need to selectively target harmful microbes over harmless ones? And importantly, how rigorously are our antimicrobial products tested for efficacy? Dr. Sandhya Shrivastava, Director, Bhavan’s Research Center delves into these questions, offering insights based on extensive research and expertise in the field of microbiology.

Our Initial Microbial Exposure:

We are germ-free at birth and begin to host them in our bodies through external exposures such as air, water, clothes, linens, floors, and furniture, not forgetting human touch, largely on the skin and in the oral cavity. Germs remain absent or negligible in extreme environments, such as those with extreme pH, temperature, salinity, availability of oxygen, toxic chemicals, and so on.

Understanding Our Microbial World:

Contrary to what many of us think, most microbes are friendly, harmless, and even useful, serving as competitors to pathogens and contributors to nutrients and a variety of food products. Together, at any given location, harmless and pathogenic microbes coexist in homeostasis, forming a unique microenvironment popularly known as the ‘Microbiome.’ Various factors govern the resident flora of the microbiome, so under certain conditions, each environment becomes a distinct microcosm.

The Need for Selective Microbial Control:

To maintain a healthy ecosystem, the ultimate objective should be to leave the harmless microbes intact while targeting only the harmful ones for removal or destruction. Scientists are working to understand the microbiomes of various environments, beginning with the gut, oral, and skin microflora. They aim to apply this knowledge to environments such as kitchens, toilets, bathrooms, floors, and other areas related to home and institutional hygiene, such that harmless microbes prevail over the harmful ones.

The Challenge of Antimicrobial Resistance:

Most responsible industries that manufacture antimicrobial agents are becoming aware of the points mentioned above. Many are actively searching for eco-friendly, less harsh actives that selectively target and inactivate pathogens. The same trend is observed in user industries, such as the hospitality and healthcare sectors. Scientists, physicians, and regulators are also grappling with understanding and controlling antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) bacteria and fungi, which have largely developed due to the overuse of antimicrobial products in the last few decades.

Evaluating Product Efficacy

It is extremely important to evaluate the products to prove their efficacy and ensure that they are fit for purpose. As more understanding is being built around antimicrobial agents and their impact on health and environment, especially the microbiome composition of different milieu, the pool of microbes to be tested is increasing in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbes too. To support these developments, the laboratories associated with efficacy testing need to be geared up with a wide range of reference and environmental strains.

Bhavan’s Research Center: A Pioneer in Microbial Evaluation

Bhavan’s Research Center (BRC), a specialised microbiology lab, is partnering with various industries to provide services in evaluating the antimicrobial efficacy of products intended for home/institutional care and personal hygiene applications. It possesses a culture bank of over 200 microbes, including bacteria, viruses, yeast, and mould, which the industry utilises to assess product efficacy against a wide range of microbes. The frequently used test reports generated under the aegis of ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation are based on European and US standards. Some of these include EN 1040, EN 1276, ASTM 2783 (Suspension tests), EN 13697 (surface disinfection test), and BSI PAS 2424 (residual antimicrobial efficacy). Most of these reports are used to understand and promote products in both B2B and B2C markets.

Collaboration with Industry for Sustainable Solutions

BRC is actively engaged in projects with home and personal care industries to study the microbiomes of various environments. This data is used for: a) ensuring the elimination of harmful microbes in a given environment, thus rendering the product fit-for-purpose; b) differentially targeting good and bad microbes, minimising disruption in natural environments (especially important for skin, gut, scalp, and oral microbiomes); and c) understanding the relative abundance of pathogens, thereby proving the product’s percentage efficacy in killing microbes. This approach is particularly vital for natural activities, whether used alone or in formulations. Some of these methods primarily rely on molecular studies, which provide a partial or complete overview of the microflora in an environment, including a rough quantification.

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1 comment

Aditya Belose January 12, 2024 - 1:01 pm

Impressive insights on microbial control, Dr. Shrivastava! 🦠 Your evaluation of the need for selective microbial control and the challenges of antimicrobial resistance is crucial. 💡

How can individuals contribute to a healthier microbial environment in their homes? Would love to read more about practical tips and habits in your future blogs.

Keep up the enlightening work, eagerly anticipating more valuable content! 👏

Reply

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