What are biofilms?
Biofilms are a community of microorganisms that stick to surfaces and produce a protective layer as a means for their own survival. Biofilms are not limited to the human body either.
They are also not a new discovery!
The inventor of the microscope, Anton Von Leeuwenhoek, saw microbial aggregates (biofilms) on scrapings of plaque from his teeth. The term biofilm was coined in 1978 (or 1985), depending on the source), by Bill Costerton (1).
This protective layer can be resistant to antibiotics and immune responses, making it difficult to clear in some infections. The formation of biofilm is a complex process that involves attachment, formation, maturation, and dispersal.
Biofilms are everywhere. Your teeth have a biofilm layer that forms every day. Your toothbrush removes it. The differences in biofilms are a varied as the differences in people. They can be infectious and inflammatory.
They aren’t limited to the human body either, as you will see by reading on.
Introduction to Biofilms and Their Matrix.
Biofilm is a term used to describe a community of microorganisms that live together in a slimy, protective matrix. Biofilm, or biofilms, are formed when bacteria, fungi, or other microorganisms attach to a surface and begin to produce a sticky substance known as extracellular polymeric substance (EPS). They form a colony, on hard surfaces.
They also form colonies on surfaces that have a mucosal, including the cheeks, and the gastrointestinal tract (2).
The sticky substance, the EPS, helps to anchor the microorganisms to the surface and provides protection against environmental stressors such as antibiotics, disinfectants, and immune cells.
Biofilm can form on a variety of surfaces including medical devices, dental implants, and tissues, like your teeth, within the human body. Once biofilm forms, it can be difficult to remove and can lead to chronic infections and health issues.
Biofilm can also form in water pipes, and your shower head! An example of bacteria in your shower head is Mycobacterium. This study found the genus of Mycobacterium can colonize shower heads, and that bacteria can be aerosolized when you shower (3).
When biofilms forms on medical devices, such as catheters and implants, it can lead to device-related infections. If they forms on human tissues, such as the lungs and teeth, biofilms may lead to chronic infections and health issues.
The formation of biofilm is a complex process that involves several stages.
Stage one: attachment.
Microorganisms attach to a surface using appendages, such as pili and fimbriae.
Stage two: formation.
The microorganisms colony produces extracellular polymeric substances that form a protective matrix around the community.
Stage three: maturation.
The biofilm releases planktonic cells into the environment to colonize new surfaces.
Stage four: detachment.
Bacteria and other microbes disperse and colonize other areas.
Commonly Found Areas of Biofilms in the Body.
Biofilm does form on various surfaces in the body, such as the skin, mouth, gut, and urinary tract. This is part of being human.
The mouth is a common area for biofilms to form. Biofilms can form on the teeth, and their proximity to gum tissue is what causes the inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. This inflammation causes a process within the attachment fibres, that connect gum to tooth, that causes break down.
This is the beginning of gum disease.
There can also be biofilms that form on the walls of the intestines, leading to inflammatory bowel disease. In the urinary tract, otherwise known here as the Urogenital System, biofilm can form on the walls of the bladder and kidneys, leading to urinary tract infections.
Biofilm can also form on medical devices, such as catheters, implants, and prosthetics (4). They can even form on simple things like your contact lenses!
When biofilm forms on these devices, it can lead to device-related infections that are difficult to treat. Biofilm infections can also occur in the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
The Role of Biofilms in Infections and Diseases
Biofilm plays a significant role in the development and progression of infections and health issues.
Biofilm infections are often chronic and difficult to clear due to the protective barrier provided by the extracellular matrix. Biofilm infections are also more resistant to antibiotics and immune responses than planktonic infections.
They can be classified as device and non device related infections. Non device related infections are periodontitis, osteomyelitis, endocarditis, and device-related infections. Biofilm infections can also exacerbate existing conditions, such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
This article shares that the tick borne species B. burgdorferi, B. afzelii, and B. garinii, are resistant to antibiotic therapy due to the formation of biofilms, and the biofilm structure (5). This is one of the ways Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria becomes resistant.
Stephen Harrod Buhner, the author or Healing Lyme, notes that “viable borrelial organisms are still detectable in biofilms 70 to 85 percent of the time”. Once they attach and form their community, they become resistant to medications and even your own immune system(8).
Your immune cells try to do their job, but become “frustrated” and release enzymes that may damage surrounding tissue.
Disruption of Biofilms.
Disturbing biofilms can be challenging due to the protective barrier provided by the extracellular matrix. While western medicine typically uses antibiotics, they can be ineffective against biofilm colonies, as the matrix acts like a fence … therefore, alternative options are used to effectively break up the biofilms and the colonies within.
One approach to breaking up biofilms is to disrupt the extracellular matrix using enzymes. These enzymes can break down the matrix and expose the microorganisms to antibiotics and immune responses. Another approach is to use antimicrobial peptides.
There are also widely used herbs and plants, like Wild Bear Garlic and Wild Oregano Oil.
Prevention and Management of Biofilms.
Preventing biofilm formation is crucial in reducing the incidence of biofilm and increased risk of amplifying other conditions. For the mouth, which is part of the Digestive System dial, good oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing, can prevent the formation of dental plaque and inflammation of the gums, and tonsils. Cleaning retainers, and dentures decreases biofilm formation as well.
If you see the “Teeth and Gums” or the “Throat and Tonsils” note on your report, give some consideration to your oral care, and your saliva! Having adequate hydration decreases dry mouth, as lack of moisture and saliva leaves microorganisms. like candida, to grow in the mouth.
Managing biofilm in and around the body can be done with hygiene, hydration, homeopathy and herbs. Other biofilm management strategies can be probiotics, and probiotic food, to crowd out bacteria and other microbes that aren’t beneficial.
The Future of Biofilm Research and Development
The study of biofilm is a rapidly growing field, with new research and development being conducted to better understand the formation and behavior of biofilm. Yes, biofilms have a behavior, called quorum sensing. This is a cell to cell communication, where the bacteria talk to each other (6).
There is a chemical signalling process that comes from molecules called autoinducers. They regulate bacterial gene expression – and that is quorum sensing.
Think of it like bacterial language, as diverse as human language.
Certain special can talk to many species, because they can interpret lots of signals, and some can only communicate with a few species.
This signalling, or quorum-sensing, allows the individual bacteria that live in a colony, to carry on their day to day bacterial “jobs”.
The downside is that some bacteria can sense the “power” in another bacteria. Bacillus in your gut can sense pathogenic bacteria, like Staph Aureus, and disrupt their communication system (7).
Misconceptions About Biofilms.
There are several misconceptions about biofilm that can lead to misunderstandings and incorrect approaches to disrupt them. One common misconception is that biofilms are always caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While biofilms that cause infections can be more resistant to antibiotics than planktonic infections, they can still be caused by susceptible bacteria.
Another misconception is that biofilms are always chronic and difficult. This is not always so, especially if the biofilm is broken up in its early stages of formation.
Let’s wrap this up.
Biofilms are a complex community of microorganisms that can form on various surfaces in the body, such as medical devices, tissues, and organs. Biofilms play a significant role in the development and progression of infections and health issues, and is often resistant to antibiotics and immune responses.
Biofilms can form in your home, especially in water pipes.
Here’s some tips for household biofilms
- Run your water for a bit prior to filling up your tub or getting into the shower. Running water does flush stagnant bacteria out of a pipe. Investing in proper plumbing, that eliminates as much stagnant water as possible, will decrease biofilm development.
- While we always floss our teeth around here, because we know plaque is a biofilm, you can also use your floss for getting into nooks and crannies around your faucets to scrape off that sticky bacterial goo!
- Baking soda is a mechanical means of removing biofilms from your pipes. The pH of baking soda will help in dissolving, and the grit of baking soda mechanically removes some of the film.
While Bioenergetic Testing can’t diagnose a biofilm issue in your body, it can give you energetic patterns of organisms, like Staph Aureus, or Mycoplasma, that can play a role in bacterial biofilm formation.
And we have remedies to bust them!
- Healing Lyme Stephen Harrod Buhner, 2015, Raven Press
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