Plants can liven up a dreary space, purify our air, and generally keep us healthier – but what if they could contribute to innovative germ-fighting science, too? That question is at the center of recent research on multi-resistant, or multidrug-resistant germs. Why? Because these highly evolved germs are a major concern in healthcare environments. There, they can continually build antibiotic resistance and create a real threat for patients. But a series of studies recently conducted by Gabriele Berg, an environmental biotechnologist from the Graz University of Technology, along with several postdoctorate researchers, may prove promising in the fight against multi-resistant germs. Scroll down to find out more about how houseplants can contribute to science.
What Are Multi-Resistant Germs?
Multi-resistant germs are a major threat in sanitary spaces like hospital intensive care units. These germs are highly antibiotic resistant, having evolved to be deadlier than everyday germs. Interestingly, while strong, drug-resistant germs are all around us, they’re especially active on the leaves of houseplants. The researchers in the aforementioned study are using this knowledge to fight pathogens using houseplants as test subjects.
So, how are researchers inspecting plants to fight multi-resistant germs?
According to study documentation, the team from the Graz University of Technology started with several common houseplant samples. Researcher Gabriele Berg explained why. “Houseplants have a very vibrant microbiome,” Berg wrote in the study documentation. “Each species hosts its own microorganisms and they do it independently of environmental factors.”
But just how many microorganisms exist on each plant? “We have found around one million bacteria and 1,000 fungi per square centimeter of leaf surface,” Berg wrote. He explained that the bacteria have an effect on plant health as well as a “healthy microbial indoor climate.”
To conclude the study, the researchers isolated the plants to see how their preexisting microbiomes influenced the surrounding surfaces. This would indicate whether the plants spread healthy germs or harmful germs.
The results of the initial study were published in Nature Communications journal in 2019. Berg summarized the findings, explaining that multi-resistant germs were fewer “wherever high bacterial diversity prevails.” Essentially, a high number of microorganisms, like those found on the leaves of plants, helps keep the harmful bacteria in check.
Researchers continue to develop a deeper understanding of the relationships between microbes. In time, they may develop new and innovative ways to tackle multi-resistant germs. Ultimately, studies like these help the medical community as providers seek to create healthier experiences for patients and their visitors.
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