Biofilms are a problem in hospital settings as they can cause patient infections and encourage the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
This is an image of a dry surface biofilm taken using a scanning electron microscope. The biofilm contains the bacterium Acineteobacter baumannii growing under laboratory conditions on a surface typical of the hospital environment (stainless steel in this instance). To support growth, we provided the bacteria with a novel medium that we suspect is a common source of nutrients/moisture on these surface types in hospitals – human sweat.
The image highlights both the attachment of a biofilm community to the surface and what is potentially their dispersal mechanism; you can see the biofilm ‘flaking’ off the surfaces, possibly due to desiccation (drying out). It shows the important role these forms of surface contamination have in hospitals and the ease by which harmful levels of contamination could readily be transmitted. It is easy to see how a patient’s hand could remove these flakes of biofilm and spread infection.
Image provided by Fergus Watson of the University of Southampton.
Further reading on biofilms in hospitals
D.M. Costa, K. Johani, D.S. Melo, L.K.O. Lopes, L.K.O. Lopes Lima, A.F.V. Tipple, H. Hu, K. Vickery. Biofilm contamination of high-touched surfaces in intensive care units: epidemiology and potential impacts. Letters in applied microbiology, 68. Pages 269-276, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1111/lam.13127.
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