Defence against unwanted microorganism growth
Unlike plants or animals, however, they only become visible in a masse. It is rather the metabolic performance they achieve that is noticeable: More than 70 % of the 130 billion tonnes of biomass produced by plants are re-decomposed by microorganisms during the course of the year. This desirable metabolic performance in the natural cycle is, however, not limited to natural habitats. Microorganisms frequently also populate the processes and products created by humans and even people themselves.
25 to 30 % of all human medical diagnoses and treatments, 50 % of veterinary medicinal products and 30 % of plant protection products in Germany are used solely as defence against unwanted infections.
Unwanted microorganism growth not only concerns defence against infections: Many production processes and products must also be protected against unwanted effects of microorganisms. This is frequently only achieved by using antimicrobial agents. Their importance can be assessed by the fact that by the end of 2016, the competent approval body for biocidal products had received around 52,027 notifications of biocidal products, of which most are used for disinfection (~49 %), material protection (~29 %) and pest control (~20 %).
The large number of biocidal products available is, however, misleading, as the products are spread between 22 product types. In addition, many biocidal agents are currently being subjected to a review: In future, only biocidal products with a low risk potential will be approved for applications. The approvals issued to date have already been cancelled for numerous active ingredients and product combinations and only a few new agents have been developed.
Many users of biocidal products will therefore have to look for or develop alternatives to the protective measures they have used until now. This is where bifa, with more than 25 years of comprehensive environmental microbiology and toxicology experience in many areas of use, can provide support for users and developers.
As, within the scope of standardised test procedures, most antimicrobial agents can only be tested with a few standard microbes, these findings can only be transferred to the diversity of possible applications to a limited extent. In each individual case, it must be checked whether the substance matrix present in the place of use and the microorganisms that occur there in reality limit the targeted protective effect. It is therefore constructive to isolate and identify the microorganisms that actually occur in the place of use first. Technical processes are frequently only populated by a few microorganism species that are especially adapted to this habitat. Identifying them helps to select potential defensive measures. The microbe isolates acquired should then be used as test microbes for assessing the effectiveness of the protective measures to be tested under conditions that are as close to the actual practical situation as possible. In this way it is possible to identify the best protection option for the respective intended use. Effective suppression of unwanted microorganism growth is also the best way to prevent resistances, which would result in even more sophisticated defence measures. Wherever possible, it should also be checked whether unwanted microbe growth can be limited by adjusting the respective habitat of the disruptive microorganisms, so that the use of biocides can be reduced or completely avoided.