Updated: Sep 28
Do you know that many of the products you use on a daily basis require enzymes from biological sources for their production? More specifically the enzymes secreted by some organisms helps in catalysis of certain processes. Some are useful during their manufacturing process and others are added to the products for their properties. The enzymes can be extracted from plants, animals or microbes. When compared to other sources of enzymes, bacterial enzymes have shown better results in reducing processing time, energy requirements, cost and chemical by-products. We will limit the scope of this article to bacterial enzymes and their applications. Majority of us have little idea about the spectrum of applications of probiotic enzymes in domestic, industrial and medical processes. These useful bacteria have been colloquially referred to as probiotic bacteria, and the enzymes secreted by these as probiotic enzymes.
The catalytic potential of probiotic microbes has been used for years to produce daily staple food products such as bread, wine, vinegar and other products without understanding the biochemical processes going behind the production process. The enzymes secreted by probiotic microbes are more stable, active and are easier to use and optimize as compared to their alternatives extracted from plants and animals.
The advancements in the field of biotechnology and microbiology, has made it easier to modify bacteria as per our industrial requirement. This has helped in increasing the scale of usage of these microbes as per demand.
What are enzymes?
Enzymes are protein based biological molecules which act as catalyst in chemical reactions that are required for the survival of every living organism. They are very specific in their action or their action is analogous to lock and key mechanism, which means that every chemical reaction in the living body requires its specific enzyme for the catalytic action. They reduce the activation energy of the reactions which makes the reaction faster. They help in a wide range of biological process such as metabolism, digestion and DNA replication.
Some of the examples of bacterial enzymes are:
Proteases (helps in breakdown of proteins)
Amylases (helps in breakdown of starches)
Lipases (helps in breakdown of fats and oils)
Cellulases (helps in breakdown of cellulose)
Lactases (helps in breakdown of lactose)
Probiotic bacteria have a variety of potential uses. Some of the examples include:
Probiotic bacteria are commonly used in food production for their ability to ferment food improve gut health and impart other beneficial health effects. Some of the ways in which probiotic bacteria are used in food production include:
Yogurt production: Lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus are commonly used to ferment milk and create yogurt.
Kefir production: Kefir is a fermented milk product that is made using a combination of bacteria and yeast.
Fermented vegetables: Vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles are traditionally fermented using lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus brevis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides.
Cheese production: Some types of cheese are produced using probiotic bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium.
Bread production: Some breads are produced using probiotic bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Non-dairy milk: Probiotic bacteria like Lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus are used to ferment non-dairy milk, like almond milk or soy milk.
Probiotic bacteria can be used in cleaning as a natural and eco-friendly alternative to traditional cleaning products. Some of the ways in which probiotic bacteria are used in cleaning include:
Drain cleaning: Probiotic bacteria can be added to drains to break down grease, oil, and other organic matter that can cause clogs. These bacteria consume the organic matter as a food source, helping to keep drains clear and free-flowing.
Surface cleaning: Probiotic cleaning solutions can be used to clean surfaces, such as countertops, floors, and bathrooms. These solutions contain beneficial bacteria that can break down dirt, grime, and other pollutants, leaving surfaces clean and fresh-smelling.
Laundry detergent: Probiotic laundry detergents are formulated with beneficial bacteria that can break down dirt and stains, leaving clothes clean and fresh-smelling.
Indoor air quality
Probiotic bacteria can be used to improve indoor air quality by breaking down volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other pollutants. VOCs are a group of chemicals that are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids and can have short- and long-term adverse health effects.
One way this is done is through the use of probiotic air purifiers, which use colonies of beneficial bacteria to break down VOCs. The probiotic bacteria consume the VOCs as a food source, converting them into less harmful by-products. This process can also help to remove odours and improve overall air quality.
Another way is by using probiotic coatings, which are applied to surfaces like walls, ceilings, and flooring. These coatings contain a mixture of probiotic microorganisms that can break down pollutants, improve air quality, and promote healthy indoor environments.
Probiotic bacteria can be used to improve plant growth by increasing nutrient uptake and helping plants to resist environmental stressors. Some of the ways in which probiotic bacteria are used for plant growth include:
Rhizosphere colonization: Probiotic bacteria can colonize the root zone of plants, known as the rhizosphere, and improve the uptake of nutrients such as phosphorous, nitrogen and minerals.
Biocontrol of plant pathogens: Probiotic bacteria can help to control plant pathogens by competing for resources, producing antibiotics, and inducing systemic resistance in plants.
Improved soil health: Probiotic bacteria can help to improve soil health by increasing the diversity of microorganisms in the soil and by breaking down organic matter, resulting in better soil structure, aeration, and water-holding capacity.
Stress tolerance: Probiotic bacteria can help plants to tolerate environmental stressors such as drought, salinity, and heavy metal toxicity.
Plant growth promotion: Probiotic bacteria can promote plant growth by producing plant growth-promoting compounds such as auxins, cytokinin, and gibberellins.
Probiotic bacteria can be used to treat wastewater by breaking down pollutants and making the water safe for reuse. Some of the ways probiotics are used in water treatment are:
Wastewater treatment: Probiotic bacteria can be used to treat wastewater by breaking down pollutants and reducing the need for chemical treatments. This can include breaking down organic matter, reducing the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, and removing heavy metals.
Drinking water treatment: Probiotic bacteria can be used to treat drinking water by removing pathogens and impurities. This can include removing bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms, as well as reducing the levels of chlorine and other disinfectants.
Aquaculture: Probiotic bacteria are used to maintain water quality and improve the health of fish and other aquatic animals in aquaculture. This can include reducing the levels of ammonia and nitrite, which can be harmful to fish, and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria that can help to improve water quality.
Recycling greywater: Probiotic bacteria can be used to treat greywater, which is water that has been used for washing and cleaning, for reuse in irrigation, toilet flushing, and other non-potable uses.
Solid Waste Management
Probiotic bacteria can be used in solid waste management by the following means:
Decomposition of organic waste: Probiotic bacteria can break down organic waste in landfills, reducing the amount of methane emitted and speeding up the decomposition process.
Composting: Bacteria play a crucial role in the composting process by breaking down organic matter, converting it into nutrient-rich compost.
Odour control: Bacteria can be used to control odours in solid waste storage and transportation.
Pathogen control: Bacteria can be used to control pathogens in solid waste and compost, making it safer for use as a fertilizer or soil amendment.
Biogas production: Bacteria can be used to produce biogas from solid waste, which can be used as a renewable energy source.
Recycling: Bacteria can be used in recycling process such as paper and textile recycling to break down the fibres and make it usable again.
Probiotic bacteria can be used to improve the health of pets by helping to maintain a healthy digestive system and boosting the immune system. Some of the uses include:
Digestive health: Probiotic bacteria can help to improve the digestive health of pets by promoting a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut microbiome. This can help to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea, constipation, and other digestive problems, and improve nutrient absorption.
Immune system: Probiotic bacteria can help to boost the immune system of pets, helping them to fight off infections and diseases.
Skin and coat health: Probiotic bacteria can help to improve the skin and coat health of pets by promoting a healthy balance of microorganisms on the skin and reducing the incidence of skin problems such as allergies, itching, and hot spots.
Oral health: Probiotic bacteria can help to improve the oral health of pets by reducing the incidence of dental problems such as plaque and tartar build-up, and by promoting a healthy balance of microorganisms in the mouth.
Allergies: Probiotics have been known to have a positive impact in reducing symptoms of allergies in pets.
Probiotics have been used in medical and pharmaceutical industries for a wide range of uses such as:
Development of probiotic drugs: Probiotic bacteria can be used to create probiotic drugs, which are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed in sufficient amounts.
Drug delivery: Probiotic bacteria can be used as delivery vehicles for vaccines, allowing them to be administered orally rather than through injection. It can be used to deliver the drugs specifically to targeted sites increasing efficiency and reducing side effects.
Immune system modulation: Probiotic bacteria have been shown to modulate the immune system, which could be useful in treating autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.
Wound healing: Bacteria can be used to promote wound healing by preventing infections and stimulating the growth of new tissue.
Cancer treatment: Bacteria can be engineered to target and kill cancer cells, which is a promising area of research termed as ‘bacteriotherapy’
Bioremediation: Bacteria can be used to break down environmental pollutants and clean up the contaminated sites.
Dyeing: Bacteria can be used to produce natural dyes for textiles, which are more environment friendly than synthetic dyes.
Finishing: Bacteria can be used to produce enzymes that can be used in textile finishing to soften fabrics, remove impurities, and improve the feel and appearance of the textile.
Biodegradable fabrics: Bacteria can be used to produce biodegradable fabrics by breaking down the natural fibres such as cellulose and chitin.
Leather industry: Bacteria are commonly used in the leather industry to break down proteins in raw hides and skins by a process known as tanning.
Bacteria are also used in paper industry to break down wood fibres in the production of pulp. One method is known as kraft pulping, which uses a specific bacterium which when added to the pulping process break down the lignin in the wood fibres. This makes it easier to separate from cellulose fibres.
Bacteria can be used in the cosmetics industry in a variety of ways, including:
Fermentation: Bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus can be used to ferment natural ingredients, such as soy and rice, to produce ingredients for cosmetics like hyaluronic acid, amino acids, and antioxidants.
Preservation: Bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc can be used as natural preservatives to extend the shelf life of cosmetics and personal care products.
Exfoliation: Bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis can be used in exfoliating scrubs and peels to gently remove dead skin cells and reveal smoother, clearer skin.
Moisturizing: Bacteria such as Lactobacillus can be used to create moisturizing creams and lotions that can help to improve skin hydration and elasticity.
Brightening: Bacteria such as Streptococcus thermophilus can be used to create brightening serums and creams that can help to improve the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone.
Anti-aging: Bacteria such as Lactobacillus can be used to create anti-aging creams and serums that can help to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Acne treatment: Bacteria such as Lactobacillus can be used to create products that can help to reduce the appearance of acne, such as spot treatment creams or lotions.