How much you know about biofilms?SURFBIO
Author: Carlos Rumbo, from ICCRAM – Universidad de Burgos
Biofilms are associations of microorganisms that are attached to different surfaces, where they can grow and live. Thus, these structures can be found stuck to both non biological (rocks, pipes…) and biological surfaces (plants, animals). Biofilms can be formed by different types of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, which are immersed in a self-produced matrix of diverse substances such as proteins, polysaccharides and nucleic acids. Living in biofilms confers many advantages to the embedded microorganisms since, for example, these structures provide them with protection against environmental stress (desiccation, limited nutrients, extreme temperature, antimicrobial agents…).
Biofilms are involved in many aspects of human life, representing both beneficial and detrimental effects. Therefore, these structures present beneficial roles in a variety of fields such as the bioremediation of hazard contaminants, wastewater treatment, or different biotechnological processes. On the other hand, biofilms pose a critical impact in hospital settings, where they are involved in nosocomial infections, as well as in food industry, where biofilms developed by pathogens are one of the main causes of the spoilage of the food, constituting also a significant risk for human health.
Taking into account the high impact of biofilms on human life, understanding the complex processes involved in their formation is a priority for the scientific community. Therefore, the research on the mechanisms implicated in the cellular adhesion, the attachment to surfaces and the subsequent biofilm development, together with the factors that influence its formation, can provide new knowledge about the stability of the biofilms, and how they can be disrupted or promoted, which is very valuable for different fields such as biomedicine, biotechnology or food production.
Different institutions with expertise in the microbiology field and analytical methodologies relevant for the application in studies focused on biofilm formation and progression, as well as in the analysis of the microbe-surface interactions, are participating within the Surfbio project. The final objective of this project is to create an Innovation Hub that provides research services and assessment to material designers and biotechnology researchers.
Pic: Scanning Electron Microscopy image showing a biofilm of Pseudomonas aeruginosa over a fibrous surface.