Space Age Biofilm Research
- Fiona Collins
- Mar 6, 2013
Fascinating discoveries have been made around biofilms in recent years. We know that biofilms are involved in the majority of human infectious diseases, including those of the oral cavity and outbreaks derived from food processing biofilms. The structure of biofilms is highly complex. Within the biofilm microbial colonies are protected in an extracellular polysaccharide ‘slime’ layer and the overall structure of the biofilm also resists penetration by antimicrobials.
What makes biofilms particularly interesting? For a start, how they share and communicate. Biofilm intercellular ‘sharing’ and communication are truly amazing. Bacteria share metabolized compounds and genetic information. Cell-to-cell signaling is highly advanced, with quorum sensing resulting in self-monitoring of the bacterial population and communication includes sharing of information through microscopi pilli on the bacteria. Sharing of genetic information and genetic transfer between cells also occurs, including in some cases to different although similar bacterial species. In fact, the transfer of antibiotic resistance from one species to another can occur through DNA transfer (and thereby increasing the pool of resistant bacterial species to an antibiotic).
As more research has occurred, more details have emerged of the mechanisms of protection, synergy, competition and communication within biofilms have emerged. Along with this understanding, the good news is that novel technologies are being investigated for combatting biofilms. These include the use of antibiofilm agents, as well as methods to modulate biofilms and to render a biofilm nonpathogenic through the intentional use of the mechanisms of bacterial genetic transfer.