Historically, biofilms have been considered detrimental.For instance, the majority of medical device infections are due to the presence of biofilms that are highly resistant to conventional antibiotic treatment. In fact, many biofilms are beneficial, such as those used in wastewater treatment, and may even be critical to sustain life.
The ability to modify biofilms toward desired outcomes therefore holds much promise.For instance, tweaking the community constituents could increase the rate at which a biofilm breaks down toxic organic materials. Modifying the surface chemistry of a medical implant could predestine any resulting biofilm infection to be more susceptible to antibiotics. Demonstration of success for approaches such as these depends upon robust and reliable biofilm fabrication and measurement methods.
NIST is developing methods to quantify critical properties of biofilms and biofilm-material interactions, ultimately to support the development of advanced technologies to alter biofilms toward desired outcomes.Key properties to consider include spatial organization, viability, biomass, and activity.Methods and statistical approaches to characterize and quantify biofilms and their response to external stimuli, such as soluble antimicrobial agents, substrate properties, and additional species of bacteria, will facilitate development, testing, and regulatory oversight for new technologies aimed to harness the promise of biofilms to address critical societal challenges.