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      Biofilms: Microbial Life on Surfaces

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          Microorganisms attach to surfaces and develop biofilms. Biofilm-associated cells can be differentiated from their suspended counterparts by generation of an extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) matrix, reduced growth rates, and the up- and down- regulation of specific genes. Attachment is a complex process regulated by diverse characteristics of the growth medium, substratum, and cell surface. An established biofilm structure comprises microbial cells and EPS, has a defined architecture, and provides an optimal environment for the exchange of genetic material between cells. Cells may also communicate via quorum sensing, which may in turn affect biofilm processes such as detachment. Biofilms have great importance for public health because of their role in certain infectious diseases and importance in a variety of device-related infections. A greater understanding of biofilm processes should lead to novel, effective control strategies for biofilm control and a resulting improvement in patient management.

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          Most cited references 53

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          The involvement of cell-to-cell signals in the development of a bacterial biofilm.

          Bacteria in nature often exist as sessile communities called biofilms. These communities develop structures that are morphologically and physiologically differentiated from free-living bacteria. A cell-to-cell signal is involved in the development of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms. A specific signaling mutant, a lasI mutant, forms flat, undifferentiated biofilms that unlike wild-type biofilms are sensitive to the biocide sodium dodecyl sulfate. Mutant biofilms appeared normal when grown in the presence of a synthetic signal molecule. The involvement of an intercellular signal molecule in the development of P. aeruginosa biofilms suggests possible targets to control biofilm growth on catheters, in cystic fibrosis, and in other environments where P. aeruginosa biofilms are a persistent problem.
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            Biofilms and device-associated infections.

             R. M. Donlan (2001)
            Microorganisms commonly attach to living and nonliving surfaces, including those of indwelling medical devices, and form biofilms made up of extracellular polymers. In this state, microorganisms are highly resistant to antimicrobial treatment and are tenaciously bound to the surface. To better understand and control biofilms on indwelling medical devices, researchers should develop reliable sampling and measurement techniques, investigate the role of biofilms in antimicrobial drug resistance, and establish the link between biofilm contamination and patient infection.
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              Natural conjugative plasmids induce bacterial biofilm development.

               J Ghigo (2001)
              Horizontal gene transfer is a principal source of evolution leading to change in the ecological character of bacterial species. Bacterial conjugation, which promotes the horizontal transfer of genetic material between donor and recipient cells by physical contact, is a phenomenon of fundamental evolutionary consequence. Although conjugation has been studied primarily in liquid, most natural bacterial populations are found associated with environmental surfaces in complex multispecies communities called biofilms. Biofilms are ideally suited to the exchange of genetic material of various origins, and it has been shown that bacterial conjugation occurs within biofilms. Here I investigate the direct contribution of conjugative plasmids themselves to the capacity of the bacterial host to form a biofilm. Natural conjugative plasmids expressed factors that induced planktonic bacteria to form or enter biofilm communities, which favour the infectious transfer of the plasmid. This general connection between conjugation and biofilms suggests that medically relevant plasmid-bearing strains are more likely to form a biofilm. This may influence both the chances of biofilm-related infection risks and of conjugational spread of virulence factors.

                Author and article information

                [* ]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
                Author notes
                Address for correspondence: Rodney M. Donlan, Biofilm Laboratory, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mailstop C16, 1600 Clifton Road, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30333, USA; fax: 404-639-3822; e-mail: rld8@
                Emerg Infect Dis
                Emerging Infect. Dis
                Emerging Infectious Diseases
                Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
                September 2002
                : 8
                : 9
                : 881-890


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