What are Microbes?

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There are ecosystems of multiple micro-environments in our environment where organisms compete for moisture and nutrients. Not all microorganisms are bad. In fact, they are essential to the world we live in.  Microorganisms include Bacteria, Fungi, Yeast, Algae, and Virus. These are found wherever moisture, temperature, a food source and a receptive surface allows.

When these microorganisms find this ideal environment in a building, they can cause staining, deterioration, rotting, corrosion, odors. They can affect structure, components, furnishings and inhabitants, cause SBS (Sick Building Syndrome), or BRI (Building Related Illness)

The living or biological indoor environment typically includes bacteria, fungi, insects, arachnids, mammals (such as rodents) and humans. The products and components of the living environment include proteins, enzymes, and glucans, endotoxins, mycotoxins, and volatile organic compounds.

Normal building flora usually associated with microenvironments include viable (living) and non-viable (dead) microorganism, such as environmental and human associated bacteria common fungi (yeast and molds) and their associated antigens, spores, toxins, volatile metabolites and enzymes. 

There are different classifications for these organisms that allow scientist to understand how the organism fits in with the rest of the ecosystem. Bacteria, Archaea, Eukarya.


Bacteria can be more resilient than mold, and doesn’t always need oxygen, or much of a food source. Ike mold, the most critical component is water. Keeping a structure clean and dry will go a long way to prevent bacterial growth.  All one needs to do is leave spilled my, or cat urine on your carpet for a day to witness bacterial growth in damp conditions. Clean and dry doesn’t always stop bacteria though, as anyone who has swapped germs on a doorknob can attest.

Bacterial Growth

A single cell bacteria organism can multiply from one to one billion in just 18 hours

Bacteria grow by a process called binary fission. They can double every 15 minutes. This process involves the original bacteria “splitting” and forming two genetically identical bacteria. This growth through splitting occurs very quickly and results in exponential growth. In the table below, you can see that, under ideal conditions, bacteria can go from 1 cell to 4.7 x 1021 cells in only 24 hours! Can’t quite put your head around that number? It’s estimated that the Milky Way has 300 billion stars, or 3.0 x 109; you would need over a trillion Milky Ways to have the same number of stars as 4.7 x 1021 bacteria.

With this incredible growth in mind, it becomes apparent that simply performing a one-time disinfection of a surface will not provide protection for very long. It only takes a single bacterium to land on the surface, replicate and turn into trillions of bacteria.


  • Present in every environment where light is available
  • They are plants – contain chlorophyll
  • Usually green
  • From tiny cells to giant multicellular structures i.e.. Seaweed
  • Produce odors and toxic byproducts
  • Can be corrosive, cause pitting in metal, foul heat exchangers, fuel


  • Neither plant nor animal
  • Different from bacteria because they have a nucleus
  • Reproduce by spores


Fungi can be divided into 3 groups;

  • (1) Yeasts
  • (2) Mushrooms
  • (3) Filamentous fungi (molds)


  • Not a mold but part of Fungi Family
  • Used in making beer and bread
  • In buildings can be associated with slimes and pungent odors.


Mold spores can be viable or non-viable. While mold spores are found virtually everywhere, there are 3 conditions that must be met for the spores to germinate and begin growing: 1) Oxygen, 2) a Food Source and most critically, 3) Moisture. The first two are the hardest to control, so to control mold growth the source of moisture must be eliminated.

Mold Life Cycle

Mold spores are ubiquitous. Chronic moisture initiates the mold cycle of:

1) Germination

2) Growth

3) Amplification

4) Dissemination

After the spores germinate, they produce hyphae that resemble the stalk- and root-like structures of plants. After the hyphae become established, the molds will begin to produce new mold spores. This process is call sporulation. After separation from the hyphae, mold spores, are very durable.

Molds are different from plants and animals because they absorb their food instead of digesting it. Mold cells are filamentous. Called hyphae, collectively they form mycelium. Molds generally reproduce by means of spores, but not all spores are viable (capable of germination). Where there is adequate amount of moisture and a food source available, viable mold spores will germinate.

Molds measure 1-20 microns in size. A micron is a unit of measurement equal to one-millionth of a meter, or 0.00003937 of an inch. To give you an idea of how small this is, the average diameter of a human hair is almost 75 times larger than the smallest mold. An object 50μm in diameter is the smallest particle visible to the human eye, so mold spores go unseen without the use of a microscope

Mildew (not a mold)

  • Any of various fungi that form a superficial, usually whitish growth on plants and various organic materials.
  • A superficial coating or discoloration of organic materials, such as cloth, paper, or leather, caused by fungi, especially under damp conditions.
  • A plant disease caused by such fungi.


A virus is an incomplete small infectious organism that replicates only inside the living cells of other organisms. Viruses can infect all types of life forms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea.

  • Non cellular entities that can only reproduce in living cells
  • Invade the cell, take over that cells function, reproduce
  • Can attack animal, plant, fungus, algae, bacterium
  • Can cause cell to die or just exist in the cell


The four major types of germs are: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. They are incomplete organisms that can invade plants, animals, and people, and sometimes they make us sick.

Preventing Microbial Growth

Three levels of microbial reduction:

  • Disinfectant- chemical or physical process to destroy more than 99% of microbes capable of causing human disease
  • Sanitizer – reduces the number of contaminants to safe levels as judged by public health requirements
  • Sterilizer- destroys all living organisms along with their spores

Biocidal vs. Biostatic

  • Cide – to kill -kills microorganism or controls their amplification (BactiBarrier Detergent/Disinectant)
  • Stat – refers to an inhibition of growth or multiplication of target organisms (BactiBarrier Protector)

(Bacti Barrier Informational Manual Page 6-11)

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