Innovotech : Research : Science

Biofilms are organized communities of microorganisms that exist in virtually every natural environment. Biofilms form in response to shear force (flow) to avert being removed from their environment by “turning on” specific genes responsible for biofilm growth. Biofilm formation is a process involving several steps: migration, attachment, layering and mucopolysaccharide (slime) formation. Some of these steps involve chemical messengers, known as quorum-sensing compounds, which form a rudimentary communication system among microorganisms.

Once formed, microbial and bacterial biofilms are difficult to remove as they show an inherent lack of susceptibility to biocides and antibiotics when compared to planktonic (free-floating) microorganisms. Many studies have shown greater than a thousand-fold resistance to antibiotics by biofilms when compared to the same bacteria in a planktonic state.

When contemplating situations where bacterial biofilms would be expected to grow, it becomes obvious why they are so common. The two requirements for growth, 1) presence of microorganisms and 2) presence of flow, covers a multitude of animal, plant and industrial situations in the world. The simplest examples of bacterial biofilms are the slippery coating on stones in a stream, and the plaque that forms on human teeth. However, the medical and industrial impact of biofilms is tremendous and costly.

Biofilms: A new understanding of these microbial communities is driving a revolution that may transform the science of microbiology.