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A City built by Microorganisms - Biofilms

Not all microorganisms are harmful, but acquiring knowledge regarding their behaviour, helps us in the pursuit to keep our environments free of those that have the potential to be harmful.

Microorganisms are not necessarily the bachelors and spinsters we tend to think they are. They don’t always live on their own but often create their own “cities”, known as biofilms.

These cities are created by the secretion of a sticky substance, known as an extracellular polymeric substance. This sticky substance enables these microrganisms to bind together while also adhering them to the surface they are living on. This biofilm can grow into a intricate 3D structure. This complex structure of microorgaisms is what we call a biofilm.

Have I seen a biofilm before ……..?

Definitely - dental plaque, that forms on our teeth - it is a biofilm.

The pinkish coloured slime that can develop on bathtubs, showers, toilets, sinks and pet bowls - is a biofilm containing the bacteria, Serratia marcescens (S. marcescens).

It can infect open wounds, cause urinary and respiratory tract infections, pneumonia and septicemia amongst immuno-compromised adults and children.

When microorganisms are left, undisturbed they will often take the opportunity to create these biofilms as it provides some useful extra protection.

Biofilms can spread easily and this can potentially result in the spread of disease. Biofilms are also a lot tougher to remove, once established. Sanitizers and disinfectants do not have the same efficacy when it comes to biofilms. If left untreated, they can also cause staining of the surfaces they inhabit, which may require replacement.

The best defence against biofilms is prevention. We do this by implementing a regular cleaning schedule and refining our cleaning strategies to deter their formation. We are able to utilize the knowledge and information that Science provides, to constantly refine and better our service.

Surfaces may look clean, but we are doing everything we can to make sure they truly are !

Kind regards,

Angela Behrens

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