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Environmental Healthcare UnitResearch

Biofilms

Biofilms are surface associated microbial communities, which form a 'slime' on all non-sterile surfaces immersed in an aqueous environment.


Schematic of bioflim production

Biofilms occur on nearly all surfaces that are immersed in a non-sterile aqueous environment and are of concern in many different fields. For example, in medicine, bacterial biofilms can form on biological surfaces and non-biological implants such as catheters, dental implants and ventricular assist devices (among others). In these cases, they can be very difficult to remove and may contribute to severe, reoccurring infections. Consequently, the study of biofilms has become a very active area of research, with new discoveries about the nature of biofilms and infectivity being published frequently.

Biofilms are also implicated within the environment. It has been suggested that the default state of many bacterial species is within a surface associated biofilm opposed to a planktonic state, meaning that any attempt to understand the ecology of an ecosystem is undermined unless biofilms are considered.

In addition. biofilms are an important consideration in many industries. An example of this is the water industry, where biofilms can propagate within water distribution pipes. Intermittent sloughing of these biofilms by the associated fluid shear can release pathogenic microbes into the circulation, which is a potential source of epidemic disease, and must be controlled.

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