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Clinical biofilm research provides interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities at the interface of Health Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Composite EDIC extended depth of field image through a 22 day old crystalline biofilm formed by Proteus mirabilis on a silicone catheter.
EDIC image of a crystalline biofilm

The role of biofilms in infectious diseases, contamination and antimicrobial resistance is a global research priority area. At the University of Southampton, we have facilities to allow biofilm research from the laboratory bench through to patient care.  Bringing together expertise from Biological Sciences, Health Sciences, Medicine and Engineering we have a wide range of translational research projects, making use of the advanced technologies available across departments.

This theme incorporates research in the following areas:

  • Contamination of urinary catheters: understanding biofilm development on urinary catheters, with implications for control and prevention.
  • Improving the patency of nasogastric enteral tubes: investigating the presence of biofilm in NG tubes and the impact on blockages.
  • New therapeutic approaches and vaccine development for respiratory diseases: translational research into the use of novel biofilm dispersal agents and new approaches in vaccine design.
  • Anti-biofilm strategies for implants and medical devices: development of new anti-biofilm materials and coatings for orthopaedic implants and medical devices.
  • Antimicrobial resistance: improved antibiotic stewardship. Understanding the role of biofilms in chronic diseases and antimicrobial resistance.
  • Improved oral hygiene: biofilm removal methods for dental care and health.
  • The use of antimicrobial copper: as an active compound in devices, implants and wound dressings, and in the hospital environment for the reduction of healthcare acquired infections.
  • Biofilm control in endoscope reprocessing using advanced atmospheric plasma and activated water technologies.

For more information about the Biofilms theme please contact the theme leads below:

Related Staff Member

Related Staff Member

Key Publications

A single struvite crystal covered in swarming Proteus mirabilis.
Struvite crystal & Proteus mirailis

Prevention and minimisation of biofilms on urinary catheters

Biofilm development on urinary catheters is a major healthcare issue, leading to serious infections and recurrent blockages. Urinary tract infection (UTI) is the second most frequent cause of healthcare associated infection, with the use of catheters increasing the risk of development. In a collaborative programme of research across Health Sciences and Biological Sciences, we are using advanced microscopy techniques (episcopic differential interference contrast/epifluorescence, EDIC/EF), specific molecular probes and viability assessments to understand the development and persistence of biofilms in urinary catheters.



Biofilms in periprosthetic infections
Image: Dr Rob Howlin

Biofilms in periprosthetic infections

Periprosthetic infection (PI) is a serious complication of total joint arthroplasty with high associated morbidity. A growing body of data suggests that bacterial biofilms are the underlying cause and early intervention is therefore key to prevent bacterial colonisation, biofilm formation and the development of PIs. Existing prevention strategies include the use of antibiotic-loaded cement spacers and beads to elevate local antibiotic levels at the surgical site. Some of these spacers are also fully dissolvable eliminating the need for repeat surgery to remove them once the antibiotics have eluted. The use of antibiotic loaded beads at the site of infection is becoming the standard of care; importantly however the antibacterial, antibiofilm and antibiotic elution characteristics of these cements is poorly understood. This project is funded by Biocomposites Ltd to better understand and characterise the efficacy of these cements so as to permit more informed and widespread use in PI prevention.

List of related projects to
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