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Chapter 9

Interactions of Biofilm-forming Bacteria with Abiotic Surfaces

Biofilms are complex dynamic systems that have been in existence for more than 3 billion years and constitute an integral component of the prokaryotic lifestyle. The biofilm offers a protected mode of growth that not only allows microorganisms to colonize natural environments, but alsoliving hosts. Bacterial adhesion is the first and crucial step in surfaces colonization and biofilm formation,and it is mediated by an ensemble of physical and molecular interactions. Although our knowledge about this process is already substantial, existing thermodynamic models are often insufficient to accurately predict the behaviour of cells towards a surface. At present, it seems that a major cause of the failure of those models lies in the heterogeneity of both cells and abiotic surfaces. Very recent studies on electrostatic interactions clearly demonstrate that bacterial adhesion could be predicted using existing thermodynamic models only if surface charge heterogeneity at a microscale level is considered. Furthermore, the available models reduce microbe/abiotic surface arrangements to static systems, while the dynamic nature of microbial cells has to be accounted for as they can actively modulate their surface properties to adhere. Therefore, the development of efficient and versatile anti-biofilm treatments, in particular for medical applications, after decades of research still poses an extreme challenge.

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14 Nov 2011
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