Gut Health Detoxification

Biofilms: Everything you Need to Know

Biofilms: Everything you Need to Know

Biofilms are a collective of microorganisms that attach to surfaces and produce a slimy film. You may be unfamiliar with the term biofilm, but you have certainly encountered biofilm on a regular basis.

 

There are many biofilm examples, such as the plaque that forms on your teeth and causes tooth decay. Another biofilm example is pond scum, or the slippery coating that forms on rocks in a stream or river. The gunk that clogs your drains is also a type of biofilm.

 

Biofilms are also used as a protective defense for organisms like Candida. Candida biofilm, for example, can act as a shield that keeps harmful substances from reaching Candida. Biofilms pose a major challenge when trying to eliminate Candida and get rid of a Candida infection. In order, to cleanse Candida effectively, you need compounds that can break down the biofilm that protects it.

 

What Is Biofilm?

 

 

 

The biofilm definition in Oxford Dictionary states that a biofilm is: a thin, slimy film of bacteria that adheres to a surface.

 

The biofilm definition in Webster’s Dictionary states that a biofilm is: a thin usually resistant layer of microorganisms (such as bacteria) that form on and coat various surfaces.

 

Essentially, a biofilm is a slimy film made by microorganisms (usually bacteria). Biofilm forms when bacteria adhere to surfaces in moist environments by excreting a slimy, glue-like substance. All kinds of surfaces can act as sites for biofilm formation: natural materials above and below ground, plastics, metals, medical implant materials—even plant and body tissue. Wherever you find a combination of moisture, nutrients and a surface, you are likely to find biofilm.

 

Biofilms have established themselves in such environments for a very long time. Fossil evidence of biofilms dates to about 3.25 billion years ago. For example, biofilms have been found in the 3.2 billion-year-old deep-sea hydrothermal rocks of the Pilbara Craton in Australia. Similar biofilms are found in hydrothermal environments such as hot springs and deep-sea vents.

 

Biofilm Formation

 

Biofilm Formation

 

Biofilm formation begins when free-floating microorganisms, such as bacteria, come into contact with an appropriate surface and start to adhere to that surface. This first step of attaching to a surface occurs when the microorganisms produce a gooey substance known as an “extracellular polymeric substance” (EPS). An EPS is a network of sugars, proteins and nucleic acids (such as DNA). An EPS allows the microorganisms in a biofilm to stick together and adhere to a surface.

 

Following the initial step of attachment to a surface is a period of growth in which further layers of microorganisms and EPS build upon the first layers. Eventually, they create a bulbous and complex 3D structure. Water channels pass through biofilms and allow for the exchange of nutrients and waste products—this is why biofilms grow so well in ponds, rivers, and streams.

 

There are numerous environmental conditions that determine whether a biofilm is made of only a few layers of cells or considerably more, as well as the extent to which a biofilm can grow. For example, microorganisms that produce a large amount of EPS can grow into fairly thick biofilms even if they do not have access to a lot of nutrients. Conversely, for microorganisms that depend on oxygen in order to grow, the amount of oxygen that is available to them can limit how much they can grow.

 

Another environmental factor is the amount of stress that the biofilms are exposed to. For example, if you have a very high-water flow across a biofilm, such as in a river with a strong current, the biofilm is usually fairly thin. If you have a biofilm in slow flowing water, like in a pond, the biofilm can become very thick.

 

Finally, the last step in biofilm formation occurs when the cells within a biofilm leave the fold and establish themselves on a new surface. Either a clump of cells breaks away from the original biofilm, or individual cells burst out of the biofilm and seek out a new home to form a new community—a process known as "seeding dispersal."

 

What Are the Advantages of Forming a Biofilm?

 

Living as a part of a biofilm comes with certain advantages for microorganisms. Communities of microbes are usually more resilient to stress than microbes are individually. Potential stressors include the lack of water, high or low pH, or the presence of toxic substances (like antibiotics, antimicrobials or heavy metals that are toxic to microbes).

 

The slimy EPS covering of biofilms can act as a protective barrier. It can help prevent dehydration or act as a shield against ultraviolet (UV) light. Additionally, harmful substances such as antimicrobials, bleach or metals are either bound or neutralized when they come into contact with the EPS. This dilutes these substances to concentrations that are no longer lethal by the time they reach various cells deep in the biofilm.

 

In general, microorganisms living together as a biofilm benefit from the presence of their various community members. Autotrophic microorganisms, such as photosynthetic bacteria or algae, are able to produce their own food in the form of organic (carbon containing) material, while heterotrophic microorganisms (such as certain types of bacteria) cannot produce their own food and require outside sources of carbon. In biofilms, which are communities made of multiple microorganisms, the many microorganism can exchange food and nutrients.

 

Biofilms and Human Health

 

Biofilm formation in humans

 

Biofilms are found in a vast range of environments. As long as the conditions of moisture, nutrients, and a surface to stick to are met, a biofilm can form. It comes as no surprise then that biofilms can also form in the human body.

 

As research on biofilms and human health has progressed over the years, biofilms have been implicated in a variety of health conditions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, noted that biofilms accounted “for over 80 percent of microbial infections in the body.” Biofilms can also grow on implanted medical devices such as prosthetic heart valves, joint prosthetics, catheters and pacemakers, which in turn can lead to infections.

 

Biofilm formation can be a great cause of concern for health, since within a biofilm, bacteria are more resistant to antibiotics and other major disinfectants that you may use to control them. In fact, when compared to free-floating bacteria, those growing as a biofilm can be up to 1,500 times more resistant to antibiotics and other biological and chemical agents.

 

Bacteria are known to adapt and grow resistant to antibiotics. This poses as a major challenge to treating infections. However, a biofilm can form an even greater challenge as they increase resistance to antibiotics even further.

 

Candida Biofilms

 

Yeast species of biofilms such as those belonging to the genus Candida can also pose as an issue to human health. Yeast biofilms can grow on implanted devices and surfaces like breast implants, pacemakers and prosthetic cardiac valves. Candida species can also grow on human body tissues, leading to infections like vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina) and oral thrush (a yeast infection that develops in the mouth or throat).

 

Candida species are fungal pathogens that are known for their ability to cause superficial and systemic infections in humans. Candida pathogens survive and grow easily in the human body, as they feed on the simple sugars that we consume and have developed resistance to multiple drugs. One specific feature that allows Candida to thrive is their ability to form biofilms, which protects them from external factors such as our immune system defenses and antifungal drugs.

 

How to Get Rid of Biofilm in Candida Infections

 

To successfully get rid of Candida often requires a multi-step process that involves starving them of their primary food source in order to weaken their population through following an anti-candida diet, killing them with antifungal compounds, and recolonizing the gut with probiotics and prebiotics in order to restore balance in the gut microbiome, which keeps Candida under control and prevents infection from occurring.

 

However, one of the greatest challenges with getting rid of Candida is the biofilm that protects Candida can make certain antifungal compounds ineffective. In order to get rid of Candida infections, you have to know how to get rid of biofilm and use certain compounds that act as biofilm disrupters. A biofilm disrupter can break down the protective biofilm. Once the biofilm is gone, Candida are vulnerable and are able to be killed more effectively by antifungal compounds.

 

Carvacol, for example, is a compound found in the essential oils of many plants, including thyme and oregano. Carvacol is a powerful biofilm disrupter has been shown in numerous studies to be effective at breaking down Candida biofilm, regardless of the maturity of the biofilm. With biofilm disrupters like carvacol, one can break down Candida biofilm, making antifungal compounds like those found in the herbs in our Candida Cleanse Tonic more effective at killing Candida.†

 

As biofilms break down, they are processed by your body and excreted in your stool—sometimes they may even be visible. What does biofilm look like in stool? Typically, biofilms in stool aren’t very noticeable, but in some cases, they may have the appearance of a viscous, shiny film. Often, this is accompanied by an unpleasant smell.

 

Summary

 

Biofilms are a collective of microorganisms that attach to surfaces and produce a slimy film. The plaque that forms on your teeth and causes tooth decay, pond scum, the slippery coating that forms on rocks in a stream or river, the gunk that clogs your drains—all are biofilm examples.

 

Biofilms can form anywhere you find a combination of moisture, nutrients and a surface to adhere to. Biofilm formation occurs when free-floating microorganisms, such as bacteria, come into contact with an appropriate surface and start to adhere to that surface by producing a gooey substance known as an “extracellular polymeric substance” (EPS).

 

This is followed by a period of growth—the extent of which is determined by numerous environmental conditions. Lastly, the cells within a biofilm leave the fold and establish themselves on a new surface in order to form new biofilms.

 

Microorganisms benefit from forming biofilms in many ways. They are able to exchange nutrients between each other, are more protected from substances that may harm them, and are more resilient to stress.

 

Biofilms can also form as protective layers to certain organisms. Candida, for example, forms a protective biofilm that makes it more protected from antifungal compounds. This makes Candida infections difficult to treat. However, certain compounds can act as biofilm disrupters and break down biofilms, exposing Candida and making it more susceptible to damage from antifungal compounds.

 

As long as the conditions of moisture, nutrients, and a surface to stick to are met, a biofilm can form. Many different kinds of surfaces can act as sites for biofilm formation: natural materials above and below ground, plastics, metals, medical implant materials—even plant and body tissue. Essentially, biofilms are slimy films made by microorganisms that allow these microorganisms to form communities and survive more successfully than they would on their own.

 

 

 

References:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/immunology-and-microbiology/biofilm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3683961/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732559/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953520/

https://www.pnas.org/content/105/49/19360

https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/books/book/587/chapter/3804046/The-role-of-biofilms-in-fossil-preservation

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2890205/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4930275/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30067078/

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