Biofilm: The Next Big Thing in Disinfection

biofilm

The Next Big Thing in Disinfection: Biofilm

Have you ever wondered what are the main factors affecting the efficacy of disinfection and sterilization in the healthcare facility? U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists seven major causes of microbiological persistence on surfaces:

  1. Number of microorganisms
  2. Microbial resistance to biocides
  3. Concentration and Potency of Disinfectants
  4. Duration of Exposure
  5. Chemical and Physical Factors
  6. Presence of Organic or Inorganic Matter
  7. Biofilms

For many experienced healthcare professionals, these factors are well known and often well dealt with. However, did you know the difference between soil (organic and inorganic matter) and biofilm? They both can significantly lower the efficacy of disinfection, but the biofilm is much harder to remove and control.

What is biofilm and how does it form?

Biofilm is an aggregation of microbial cells, surrounded by a protective layer of extracellular polymeric matrix, which attaches itself to any surface found in the hospital environment and becomes a source of contamination. Formation of complex, multicellular communities by microorganisms is a natural phenomenon which helps bacteria or fungi to survive environmental stress such as cleaning and disinfection.

Many pathogens require a presence of conditioning layer made from organic soil to settle and start extracellular matrix synthesis. But there are bacteria which don’t really need much help to start a biofilm community. When pathogens settle down and surround themselves in an extracellular polymeric substance (EPS), they are much harder to kill.

It has been reported that bacteria found in biofilm can be up to 1,000 times more resistant to biocides than their planktonic counterparts.

How to outsmart and fight biofilm?

Despite biofilms’ rigid structure and resistance mechanisms, biofilm cells can still be outsmarted. Since EPS is the ultimate protective barrier and communication route for pathogens, the control of biofilm should start with disruption of the EPS itself, followed by an application of a biocide.

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