Microparticles Scrub Away Biofilm | AIChE

Microparticles Scrub Away Biofilm


Biofilm can build up on almost any wet surface, including shower tiles, water pipes, catheters, and even teeth. In fact, many gum diseases are caused by dental biofilm, more commonly known as plaque. More serious issues occur when biofilm develops within drinking water and on medical devices because it has the potential to exacerbate or cause infections.

Biofilm occurs often on wet surfaces, and the layer offers some protection to microbes living within. It forms when accumulations of bacterial cells produce a protective matrix of polysaccharides, proteins, lipids, and DNA. These components are extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), and together they can grow thick around bacterial cells, ultimately creating a slimy, microbial layer that resembles tissue. Removing biofilm is notoriously difficult. The thick layer is hard to fracture, and thus getting to the bacterial cells within the EPS matrix is nearly impossible without vigorous scrubbing and antiseptic agents, such as bleach or hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). For biofilm that forms in the cracks and crevices of surfaces, scrubbing is not an option.

Chemical engineers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have...

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