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Biofilms under control
17 February 2009
Biofilms are present all around us, from the green slime we see on rocks to the plaque on our teeth. Yet these glue-like communities of microorganisms are the root of growing numbers of hospital infections, and can cause serious corrosion problems in industry. Now US scientists have developed a way to control biofilm formation, making it easier to study biofilm growth - a key step in finding ways to prevent it.
Biofilms grow only on selected areas of Luk and Ren's patterned gold surface
Using surface engineering Yan-Yeung Luk, Dacheng Ren and colleagues at Syracuse University can confine bacterial biofilm growth to specific patterns for long periods of time.
'Compared to free swimming cells, attached biofilm cells are extremely difficult to eradicate because they can tolerate up to 1000 times higher doses of antibiotics and disinfectants,' explains Ren. 'To prevent biofilm formation and remove established biofilms effectively, it is critical we understand the mechanism of biofilm formation.' However, he points out, this has proved challenging due to a lack of suitable or reliable surfaces, with well-defined surface chemistry, to study their growth on.
- Blake Peterson
Previous surfaces developed to inhibit biofilms have shown poor resistance and longevity. The surface developed by Ren and co-workers inhibited biofilm growth for up to 26 days. 'To the best of our knowledge, there is no prior chemistry that can control patterned biofilm formation with this level of resistance,' said Ren.
Blake Peterson, a professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, US, sees great promise in the method. 'The surface's remarkable long-term biofilm resistance has the potential to lead to the development of improved medical implants such as stents, shunts, prostheses, and catheters that can be compromised by biofilm-associated infections,' he says.
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Link to journal article
Prolonged control of patterned biofilm formation by bio-inert surface chemistry
Shuyu Hou, Erik A. Burton, Ricky Lei Wu, Yan-Yeung Luk and Dacheng Ren, Chem. Commun., 2009, 1207
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