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Oct 19, 2018

80% of the bacteria biomass on earth is organized in biofilm

Oct 19, 2018

Image by Louise Salt, IFR


Even for microbes, strength lies in numbers. In nature, most bacteria don’t live as free-floating cells. Instead, they are organized into complex communities, known as biofilms1.

A biofilm is defined as a community of microorganisms fixed to a surface. They secrete a protective extracellular matrix, which can represent 85% of the biofilm biomass. Properties of bacteria in a biofilm are very different from those of the same bacteria in their free-floating, or planktonic, form.

Biofilms can represent very complex ecosystems developing cell-to-cell communication systems (quorum sensing). Biofilms are of increased concern in medicine. Bacteria in a biofilm are 10–1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than their planktonic counterparts, and 60-80 % of microbial infections are caused by bacteria in biofilm.

Some examples of positive or negative biofilms include: the dental plaque, the gut microbiota, biofouling of ship hulls, inside drinking water pipelines, oil forages and more.

In animal nutrition, the pipelines and tank of a pig liquid feed machine and any farm building surface also host biofilms that can be a potential threat for animal health if not controlled.


1Watnick P, Kolter R. Biofilm, City of Microbes. Journal of Bacteriology. 2000;182(10):2675- 2679.