A Global Problem
Biofilms pose a far-reaching threat to humans, animals, and the environment. The continuing rise in antimicrobial resistance necessitates effective diagnosis and management of biofilm-associated infections.22 Collectively, infections contribute to significant morbidity, mortality, and increased healthcare expenditures.14
Two Bacterial Forms
Bacteria exist in two essential forms: free-floating (planktonic) and anchored/sessile (biofilms, spores). While planktonic bacteria are well understood and relatively easy to kill, biofilms pose a unique challenge. The scientific community is just now beginning to understand the nature of biofilms. Representing 80% of all bacteria, biofilms form sophisticated defense mechanisms and are incredibly difficult to diagnose and eradicate.18
What is Biofilm?
While approximately 20% of bacteria are free floating, the remaining 80% naturally form colonies called biofilms.18 These structured communities of bacteria are enclosed in a protective matrix that adheres to living tissue, natural and artificial surfaces, or to the community itself. Biofilms can form in less than one hour1 as a defense mechanism to prevent eradication. As opposed to planktonic bacteria, biofilms are powerful communities that function as a single entity with behaviors and defenses that can produce chronic or recurrent infections.2,3 A biofilm can consist of several bacterial or fungal species.12
A Powerful Collective
Biofilms make bacteria stronger and more resistant to attack. This results in bacteria that are more tolerant to antimicrobial agents, disinfectants, and host immune defenses, which pose a prevailing problem to the health of both humans and animals.2,4,5,6,7
Bacteria in biofilms can become up to 1000-fold more resistant to antibiotics and biocides when compared to planktonic counterparts.20
The Role of the Extracellular Polymeric Substance (EPS) Matrix
Each community of bacteria secretes a matrix (like a shield) that protects them from external threats. It is this sophisticated protective structure that makes the biofilm’s bacteria difficult to eradicate.