Biofilms are present in a broad range of industrial, environmental, human health, energy production, and agricultural systems. A biofilm is a group of microorganisms that adhere to a surface and generate an extracellular matrix, which can contain extracellular DNA, proteins, and polysaccharides. These cells embedded in biofilms are often physiologically distinct form planktonic cells of the same species. Biofilms contribute to complications for water distribution systems, corrosion, food production or spoilage, and a variety of host infections. Because of this, biofilms present substantial public health concerns and can result in chronic infections, serious long-term health impacts for patients, and significantly increased medical costs.
Rather than existing as single cells in suspension, once bacteria invade a human host, they may produce a biofilm and attach to surfaces, including human tissue or devices placed inside the body, such as artificial joints, dental implants, heart valves and catheters. Antibiotics are usually much less effective against these biofilms. The antimicrobial agent may not penetrate the depth of the biofilm and if an antibiotic agent is encountered, the bacteria may communicate to others to turn on or off genes affecting susceptibility. Furthermore, a biofilm’s ability to thrive under limited nutrient and high stress conditions make them difficult to kill or eliminate from surfaces. These difficulties lend themselves to necessitate the use of specialized methods for growth, prevention, and efficacy or removal evaluations.
BioScience Laboratories, Inc. provides services for evaluating product efficacy in the prevention and/or removal of biofilms using in-vitro techniques. The BSLI team offers experience in designing and performing experiments tailored to the needs of each client to quantify biofilm growth and evaluate anti-biofilm treatments specific to industry concerns. Testing capabilities for biofilm evaluation include:
Client testing needs are often dependent upon qualitative characteristics of biofilms, such as population density, taxonomic diversity, thickness, composition, consistency and qualities of the biofilm matrix produced, which are controlled by the physicochemical environment in which the biofilm exists. For each of these presented methodologies, testing may be customized to accommodate a variety of microorganisms (single-species and multi-species biofilms), growth conditions, product or material types, and sampling techniques to evaluate the efficacy of chemical constituents against biofilms.
The development and validation of standardized methods is crucial to achieve regulatory acknowledgment and acceptance of biofilm claims. Currently, the use of the Single Tube Method to evaluate the efficacy of disinfectants against a Pseudomonas biofilm is under consideration by the U.S. EPA as an efficacy method to support the registration of antimicrobial products with biofilm claims. The EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs launched a collaborative study to assess the method’s performance. Preliminary findings suggest this ASTM test method may be accepted by the EPA for product registration.
Written By Danielle Goveia
Study Director in Biofilm Laboratory/QA Specialist
BioScience Laboratories, Inc.