The Key Question – What is a Biofilm?
A biofilm is made of numerous living micro-organisms, such as bacteria or fungi, evolving and growing as a collective. Without realising it, you actually see biofilms everyday. Biofilms grow particularly well in wet areas, and the light pink areas in your shower, or the grey parts you can see in pipes at home, are biofilms.
Organisms Communicating Together
This is a bit like LEGO pieces: one LEGO piece does not have much use; neither does an unassembled stack of LEGO pieces. However, if one starts assembling these LEGO pieces together, they will create something totally new, with new functions, and very different to the stack of unassembled LEGO pieces.
In biofilms, micro-organisms will communicate together and assemble by themselves, creating a new material (a film) of very different proprieties from the original, single micro-organism.
Why Does Researching Biofilms Matter?
Biofilms are all around us, so both fundamental and applied research on biofilms can have significant implications and practical applications on the world around us.
The Forefront of Biofilm Research
This can range from fighting antibiotic resistance to engineering anti-clogging pipes, from designing improved, more targeted drugs to creating new long-lasting paints for boat. This is why NBIC has been established: to be at the forefront of biofilm research and deliver significant and impactful innovations for society.
We’ve put some educational resources together to support the knowledge and understanding of these valuable and powerful micro-organisms.
What are biofilms and why are they important?
Biofilms can be harnessed to tackle a number of global challenges.
University of Edinburgh undergraduate student Grace Carpenter has created this video to explain their importance and impact on our world.
Interactive Biofilm Ontology Map
Understanding the language and terminology of biofilms
We have devoted time across our industrial and academic communities to understand the language and terminology of biofilms, and this has been captured as an ontology on the MindManager platform. This was developed in consultation with 80 UK researchers (in industry and research institutions/universities) to document how they talk about and describe biofilm research, problems and opportunities.
Have a go at this biofilm hunt developed for the Southampton Science and Engineering Festival by NBIC BITE PhD and University of Southampton student Declan Power. Using the examples of biofilms on this activity worksheet, see if you can find any biofilms that might be living around your home, and outdoors in the environment.
Super Biomaterials to Fight Superbugs Video
Meet Pseudomonas aeruginosa – the superbug!
Bacteria infections affect millions and cost billions to treat. Superbugs form communities on surfaces making infections harder to remedy. Novel super biomaterials are being developed by our research partners at University of Nottingham to prevent bacterial biofilms forming on surfaces, and recent clinical trials are showing promise in reducing bacterial infections.
Scales of Resistance Video
Imaging Antibiotic Resistance from the global to the microbial!
Scales of Resistance is a collaboration between our research partners at the University of Nottingham, and the Artists Daniel Alexander and ScanLAB PROJECTS. This unique film uses real image data to explore antibiotic resistance at a range of scales, from scanning electron microscope images captured at 10 microns square, to satellite images of the globe.
Worldwide, antibiotic resistance causes 700,000 deaths per year, and it has been predicted that by 2050 this number could rise to 10 million deaths per year, unless urgent and effective action is taken. Worldwide, antibiotic resistance causes 700,000 deaths per year, and it has been predicted that by 2050 this number could rise to 10 million deaths per year, unless urgent and effective action is taken. Nottingham researchers have developed biomaterials that prevent biofilm formation. When these materials are used to coat medical devices that are put into the body, such as urinary and venous catheters, they prevent infection and reduce the need for antibiotics. Scales of Resistance contextualises this research in the context of the global increase in antibiotic resistance.
Microbes are everywhere, in the soil, in the water, in our foods and even in our bodies!
Awareness of the microbiome has grown considerably in the general public over the last few years, but it is largely limited to the microbes associated with gut health. We love this video from the MicrobiomeSupport Project that explains how the microbiome is everywhere in the food system and outlines the importance of microbes for a healthy, sustainable, safe and nutritious food system.
Our #BiofilmAware campaign is all about helping people to understand what biofilms are and why biofilms are so important. If you want to get involved and support our campaign visit our #BiofilmAware hub to find out more.