Surfaces Inhibiting Biofilm Formation

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Bacteria colonies can aggregate to form a biofilm. Photo by Dr. Bestione.

Researchers from Harvard University have developed a method (Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surface –  SLIPS), to create surfaces which inhibit bacteria’s aggregation into biofilms.

These materials can have important applications – if used in hospital environments, for instance, they can help in preventing hospital-acquired infections.

Bacterial Contamination and Associated Problems

The presence of bacterial strains in our environment is a serious issue, as some bacteria can cause health problems to humans or harm other species.

Bacteria can contaminate food or drinking water; they can also be found in hospital environments.

Depending on their nature, they can cause infections and diseases that can be dangerous, sometimes also fatal.

Further to this, bacterial contamination is also a cost for society. In the US, for instance, the treatment of hospital-acquired infections was estimated at about $ 33 billion per year. For these reasons, eliminating, or at least reducing, the bacterial presence is a very important issue.

Biofilm Formation

Bacteria generally tend to aggregate in colonies; several colonies can then further aggregate on a solid surface, to form a biofilm. In the form of biofilm, bacteria are much more resistant and difficult to eliminate.

Therefore, to reduce the bacterial contamination of environments such as hospitals, it is essential to have materials with surfaces which do not promote the formation of biofilms; on the contrary, these surfaces should inhibit it.

Several studies were performed to develop such anti-biofilm surfaces. One approach is to have antibacterial compound(s) within or on the surface of the material; another option is to fabricate material whose surface does not favor the adhesion of bacteria, hence making biofilm formation impossible.

The majority of solutions developed until now, however, only work for a limited period of time.

Anti-Biofilm Novel Material

A material with promising anti-biofilm formation properties has been developed by the researchers in Professor Joanna Aizenberg’s group in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

To formulate this material, the researchers used a novel approach developed in their laboratory, called Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS). Materials prepared with this method already showed excellent properties as an ice repellent.

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