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The detachment of cells from bacterial biofilms is an important, yet poorly understood and largely unquantified phenomenon. Detached cell clumps from medical devices may form microemboli and lead to metastasis, especially if they are resistant to host defenses and antibiotics. In manufacturing plants detached clumps entering a process stream decrease product quality. Two strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a wild type (PAO1) and a cell signaling mutant (JP1), were studied to (i) quantify and model detachment patterns and (ii) determine the influence of cell signaling on detachment. We collected effluent from a biofilm flowthrough reactor and determined the size distribution for cell detachment events by microscopic examination and image analysis. The two strains were similar in terms of both biofilm structure and detachment patterns. Most of the detachment events were single-cell events; however, multiple-cell detachment events contributed a large fraction of the total detached cells. The rates at which events containing multiple cells detached from the biofilm were estimated by fitting a statistical model to the size distribution data. For events consisting of at least 1,000 cells, the estimated rates were 4.5 events mm(-2) min(-1) for PAO1 and 4.3 events mm(-2) min(-1) for JP1. These rates may be significant when they are scaled up to the total area of a real biofilm-contaminated medical device surface and to the hours or days of patient exposure.


Suzanne Wilson, Martin A Hamilton, Gordon C Hamilton, Margo R Schumann, Paul Stoodley. Statistical quantification of detachment rates and size distributions of cell clumps from wild-type (PAO1) and cell signaling mutant (JP1) Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms. Applied and environmental microbiology. 2004 Oct;70(10):5847-52

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PMID: 15466523

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