Characteristics of Bacillus Subtilis

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Characteristics of Bacillus Subtilis
Soil often contains Bacillus subtilis. (Seiya Kawamoto/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Soil, plants, air and water naturally contain many types of bacteria, which help break down food, alter the chemical make-up of substances, grow in decaying material, and help with the biological processes of other life forms. Bacillus subtilis is a common type of bacteria found in many places on earth, especially soil and plants.


Bacillus subtilis frequently lives in water, soil, air and decomposing plant residue. However, it is most known for living in soil and plants. It is primarily aerobic, meaning that it generally grows in the presence of oxygen. However, it can also grow without oxygen in the presence of nitrate, like in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and other animals.


Bacillis subtillis has a Gram-positive cell structure with a rod shape. Gram-positive bacteria have thick cell walls that retain the colour from violet die. Bacillus subtilus grows in colonies with a dull brownish or creamish colouring and wrinkled shapes. The bacteria has tiny tail-like attachments, called flagella, which help it move around.


Bacillus subtilus helps nutrients cycle throughout soil. People use some types of the bacteria to protect plants from fungi and insects. Some strains of Bacillus subtilis contain chemicals that kill fungi and other bacteria, making it a probiotic that helps plant growth. Bacillus subtilis produces several antibiotics, including difficidin and oxydifficidin. Doctors use these and other antibiotics to kill Gram-positive bacterial infections. Many scientists believe that it also helps with digestion, although the exact mechanism for digestive help is unclear.

Health Assessment

Since the bacteria commonly lives on plants and fermented soy products, animals and people often eat it. It does not pose any serious health risks, although it occasionally causes limited food-related illnesses. Workers in fermentation facilities are often exposed to this bacteria without known health problems from it.

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