Biofilm Streamers Clog Medical Devices
Bethesda, MD - Bacterial communities called biofilms can quickly clog medical devices such as stents, catheters and water filters by forming 3-dimensional streamers that block flow.
Bacteria flowing through a tube form a green biofilm on the walls. Bacteria tagged red that flow through the chamber afterward get caught in a sticky matrix, forming streamers that clog the channel.
A research team led by Drs. Howard A. Stone and Bonnie L. Bassler of Princeton University set out to better understand the characteristics of biofilms. They studied a common bacterium, P. aeruginosa, that forms biofilms in soil, rivers and sewage, as well as on medical devices. Rather than use standard Petri dishes or flasks for the research, the group developed a special flow system that mimicked real-life conditions. They labeled bacteria with a green tag and observed them under a microscope as they flowed through a narrow tube with many bends.
The scientists reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the bacteria rapidly grew and accumulated, forming a biofilm on the walls of the tube within about 40 hours. The buildup of this biofilm, however, didn’t greatly affect flow through the tube.
The bacteria in biofilms are connected to each other by a matrix of compounds they produce called extracellular polymeric substances. The researchers found that the bacteria on the tube walls shed this molecular matrix, creating a mesh netting in the tube. Continue>
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