Bacillus sphaericus in Probiotic Applications
B. sphaericus is used primarily as a mosquito larvacide. The larvacide is sold under the Abbott Laboratories commercial tradename VectoLex®. It is a naturally-occurring bacteria found in soil. It also has the characteristic of being able to survive in water that is rich in organics. It is currently used to control the particular strain of mosquito prone to carrying the West Nile Virus.
The bacteria, when ingested by a mosquito larva, secretes a binary toxin which causes the larvae to stop feeding and therefore starve. It has no known effect on mature adult mosquitoes or their pupae.
There are no reports of any ill-effects of significance from exposure to the Bacillus sphaericus bacteria in either human or animal populations. It may cause a skin rash from prolonged or heavy exposure in some people, based solely on reported effects of related Bacillus. Soap and water washing is the government Department of Health recommended method of cleansing in the unlikely event of heavy exposure.
B. Sphaericus is also used in probiotic applications, notably as a component of yogurt starter. It has no ill-effects on humans when ingested and is considered as a probiotic ingredient. This relatively little-known probiotic comprises enzymes, amino acids, anti-inflammatory compounds and colostrum. (4). On the other hand, B. sphaericus is not shown in Bergey's Manual – considered to be the microbiologist's primary reference – doesn't show B. sphaericus to have any particular probiotic properties. It is part of the probiotic products Microflora, Neoflora and Superflora. (5)
B. sphaericus is one of approximately 400 bacteria that live in the human digestive tract. While clinical studies of this particular strain aren't widespread, it seems to have no ill-effects and it is classified as probiotic.(6)
Recently, B. sphaericus has been used in genetic engineering due to its characteristic of being unable to use carbon-based sugars. (7)
Of interest is the longevity of the B. sphaericus strain. In 1995, researcher examining insects in fossilized amber estimated to be 25 to 40 million years old, successfully recovered bacterial spores of this specific bacteria. Subsequent laboratory investigation showed slight distinctions in the genetic structure of the recovered bacteria and modern bacteria, effectively eliminating the possibility of contamination of the original sample. (8)
With no known cases of ill-effects from this bacteria and the obvious benefits for human, insect, and animal populations, B. sphaericus deserves further investigation, especially as an active ingredient of human-edible foods, including yogurts and tofu cultured products. B. sphaericus is frequently listed with other bacteria in lists of ingredients for a number of probiotic supplements.
(4) Manufacturing yogurt and fermented milks By Ramesh C. Chandan, Feb 2006, pg 312
(5) Nebraska Cultures article referencing University of Nebraska studies.
(6) PROBIOTICS BALANCE: DIGESTION AND IMPROVE OVERALL HEALTH By Anthony Cichoke, D.C. ; Nutrition Science news August 1997-VoI.2, No. 8, pp.380-382
(7) Actividades del Laboratorio de Bacterias Lácticas Activities of the Laboratory of Lactic Bacteria Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Spain. From: The genes encoding functional components of the phosphoenolpyruvate phosphotransferase system (HPr,EI) and N-acetyl glucosamine metabolism form a gene cluster in Bacillus sphaericus. Microbiology, 149, 1687-1698 (2003) by Alice AF, Pérez-Martínez G, y Sánchez-Rivas C.
(8) Science News, 20 May 1995, Ancient bacteria brought back to life by Monastersky, R. thefreelibrary.com/.
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