Bacillus subtilis: Soil Organism or Probiotic? Or Both?

Bacillus subtilis means thin and rod-shaped and it was first discovered in the 1870’s. It is one of the best-characterized species of all the Gram-positive bacteria. Like other Bacillus species, it forms endospores when conditions are not favorable. It is able to grow well in oxygenated environments but can adapt to low-to-no oxygen. It is able to propel itself with flagella, whip-like appendages, found around its body.

Bacillus subtilis, or B. subtilis, is a ubiquitous naturally occurring Gram-positive bacterium that is commonly recovered from soil, water, air, and decomposing plant material. It also is one of those microbes in which the strain used is extremely important for several reasons:

  • Studies show that there is a high genetic variety in B. subtilis even in strains harvested from the same source.
  • Some strains are capable of producing toxins.
  • Some products have listed “B. subtilis” on their labels when in fact they were another Bacillus species known to produce toxins such as Bacillus cereus. This is because the B. subtilis classification has undergone changes over the years.
  • Bacillus subtilis, in general, stimulates the immune system, but this effect has to be determined on a microbe-by-microbe basis. While this may be beneficial for intestinal immune-system development, it may not be a desired characteristic universally.

Is Bacillus subtilis Safe?

B. subtilis is thought to have a weak ability to cause disease in humans unless the number of bacteria a person consumes is very high or the immune status of the person is very low. Concerns about Bacillus probiotics in general are covered here.

NOTE: Probably due to the possibility of any virulence, NO Bacillus subtilis strain has GRAS status as of March, 2015 in the US. Some sites claim theirs does, but do not believe it as it is NOT true. Some enzymes produced from B. subtilis have GRAS status, but the bacterium itself does not.

B. subtilis has been granted QPS (Qualified Presumption of Safety) status by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) for certain applications in animal feeds and for vitamin K2 production for foods and supplements consumed by humans.

Some strains are used as controlled pharmaceutical agents in Asia and are accepted in the Ukraine, Russia and Italy in products such as Biosporin, Lactipan Plus and Medilac-Vita. Other products labeled as containing B. subtilis may in fact have other species.

What is B. subtilis Used For?

Bacillus subtilis strains, many of them genetically-engineered, are used in various applications. Some of these are:

  • As a bacteriocide and fungicide sprayed on plants or seeds or mixed in the soil
  • As an important source of industrial enzymes and polymers
  • In the production of natto, a traditional Japanese dish of fermented soy beans
  • In the production of medically important enzymes such as nattokinase or Douchi fibrinolytic enzyme (DFE) used to reduce blood clotting
  • In animal feed, predominantly as a fattening agent
  • As part of a genetically modified corn, Maize MON 87460, to increase the corn’s drought resistance
  • As a probiotic

What is the Probiotic Potential of B. subtilis?

The probiotic actions of B. subtilis strains are strain-specific. Some of the better-known strains are:

  • B. subtilis HU58
  • B. subtilis PXN21
  • B. subtilis

Where Can You Find Bacillus subtilis?

MegaSporeBiotic (the link will take you to my review of the product), which contains B. subtilis HU58.

Bio-Kult  (distributed by Probiotics International, Ltd, UK) (link take you to my review of it)

This supplement contains strain PXN21 from Protexin (Probiotics International, UK)


Primal Defense products (distributed by Garden Of Life, USA)

Garden of Life says that their strains are proprietary. They did reveal that they are non-dairy strains.

Varieties of Primal Defense are found:

Primal Defense HSO Probiotic CAPLETS in 45, 90, 180 or 216 caplet sizes from
Primal Defense Ultra HSO Probiotic CAPSULES in 60, 90, 180 and 216 capsule sizes from my online dispensary, along with other quality products.

Primal Defense Kids' Probiotic Formula from Primal Defense HSO 81 g powder from

Prescript-Assist  (distributed by LL Magnetic Clay, Inc. USA)

This supplement contains a number of unconventional species.

ThreeLac (manufactured in Japan and distributed by Global Health Trax, USA)

This supplement contains a proprietary blend of ingredients.

FiveLac (manufactured in Japan and distributed by Global Health Trax, USA)

This supplement contains a proprietary blend of ingredients.

Perfect Pass Probiotic (the link will take you to my review of the product), which contains Bacillus subtilis HU58.

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