Chapter 1 Introduction to Biofilms
Section 2 A Brief Introduction to Biofilms
Page 3 Section Summary

Section Summary

The important points we hope you take from this section are these:

  1. Biofilms are heterogeneous colonies of microbes (e.g., bacteria) that grow on surfaces (e.g., rocks, medical devices, countertops, skin, etc.), held together by a slimy substance secreted by the microbes.
  2. Biofilms are a natural part of the ecology of the earth.
  3. Many biofilms are quite harmful (for example, when they show up as infections in wounds) and must be treated or controlled.
  4. Other biofilms are beneficial and can be used to help fix serious problems (such as ground contamination from an oil spill).
  5. Yet other biofilms are not perceived as either bad or good, but rather are recognized to be an important part of the natural environment around us.
  6. Until recently, research on how to treat harmful microbes (e.g., bacteria) was focused on attempts to kill the microbes in isolation; successful treatments against harmful microbes in isolation are not generally successful in treating those same microbes when they are part of a biofilm colony. Thus, different methods must be developed for treating microbes that are part of a biofilm.
  7. Biofilms cost the U.S. literally billions of dollars every year in energy losses, equipment damage, product contamination and medical infections.

Perhaps most of all, from this introduction to biofilms, we hope you take with you a clear understanding of this fact:

The study of biofilms represents a radical new way of understanding the microbiology of virtually everything around us, from problems that afflict industry to serious public health issues. Along with this new understanding comes an exciting opportunity for a new generation of researchers and practitioners: the opportunity to rethink our strategies for dealing with biofilm problems and solutions that in the past were overlooked or not handled correctly, because no one recognized that biofilms were involved. The potential to do immense good for our world as a whole is held out to those who enter this field.

Indeed, we secretly hope (whoops, there goes the secret) that you will find the topic of biofilms so interesting and challenging that you will become interested in their study as a career choice. Biofilms represent a new, wide-open field of practice and research that is only going to get hotter with time. You are, in fact, among the first college students to actually learn about biofilms in a formal course.