Lappin-Scott, Hilary Department of Biology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Costerton, J. William F. Department of Biology, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Last reviewed:January 2019
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- Nature and formation
- Microbial fouling
- Drinking-water and food industries
- Marine environments
- Industrial water systems
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A microbial (often bacterial) community that is enveloped by an adhesive substance (the glycocalyx) at the interface of a liquid and a surface. Biofilms (see illustration) are defined as highly structured communities of microorganisms that are either surface-associated or attached to one another, and are enclosed within a self-produced protective extracellular matrix. The best-studied examples of biofilms involve bacteria (the focus of this article), but biofilms can be formed by other microorganisms, including certain fungi, protists, and microalgae. In general, when a liquid is in contact with an inert surface, any bacteria within the liquid are attracted to the surface and adhere to it. In this process, the bacteria produce the adhesive glycocalyx. The bacterial inhabitants within this microenvironment benefit as the biofilm concentrates nutrients from the liquid phase. However, these activities may damage the surface, impair its efficiency, or cause the development within the biofilm of a pathogenic community that may damage the associated environment. Microbial fouling and biofouling are terms applied to these actual or potential undesirable consequences. See also: Bacteria; Bacterial physiology and metabolism; Bacteriology; Fungal biofilms; Microbial ecology; Microbial interactions; Microbial survival mechanisms; Pathogen
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