A biofilm refers to a community of bacteria, fungi, protists, and other microorganisms that grow in moist environments. It forms when free-floating microorganisms adhere to a moist surface by secreting a gooey matrix that contains sugars, proteins, and nucleic acids that anchors them in place and feeds them. They can then communicate with other bacteria through quorum sensing to join them. Once mature, the biofilm can disperse to colonize other sites and proliferate.
According to the National Institute of Health, 80% of all chronic infections and 65% of all microbial infections are related to biofilm formation. Biofilms can also form on medical devices such as catheters, heart valves and orthodontic braces.
Candida albicans, the most prevalent cause of fungal (yeast) infections in humans, can also form biofilms. It can affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, mouth, and other parts of the body. Candida albicans may even lead to any of the following types of infections:
- Urinary Yeast Infection: Affects the urinary tract and/or kidneys; urinary yeast infections have been linked to diabetes, a weakened immune system, and other serious medical conditions.
- Genital Yeast Infection: Causes redness, irritation, swelling, and other symptoms in or on the genitals. Pregnant women, people who recently taken antibiotics, and people who are on hormone therapy are more susceptible to genital yeast infections.
- Oral Thrush: Impacts the throat and the back of the mouth. Individuals dealing with oral thrush may experience redness inside the mouth, loss of taste, and painful sensations in the mouth, among other symptoms.
Biofilms mutate rapidly when threatened. As such, biofilms can be difficult to combat once they penetrate the body.
A Closer Look at Bacterial Biofilms
When it comes to biofilms, it is important to look beyond the textbook biofilm definition. By defining biofilm in terms of its advantages for bacteria, biologists have been able to understand the impact of various biofilms on human beings and other species.
Biofilms are typically found in moist locations, including:
- Toilet bowls
In nature, biofilms are beneficial. In fact, biofilms help remove impurities from water and neutralize contaminants in soil. Biofilms are commonly used to purify water in water treatment plants, too.
Bacterial Biofilms and Disease
A biofilm provides a nutrient-rich environment for bacteria. In doing so, a biofilm helps bacteria grow, thrive, and survive. Biofilms are also resistant to antibiotics which increases the likelihood of disease in humans. Biofilms sometimes causes severe infections; these instances often involve biofilm formation on artificial implants, including heart valves, urinary catheters, and other foreign substrates.
Additionally, biofilms may form on the teeth. Thin films of plaque develop due to the fermentation of sugars and starches by bacteria into acids. This results in the destruction of tooth enamel the development of gum disease and tartar buildup. The weakened tooth enamel leads to dental caries (cavities) and if neglected can cause further infection.
The Bottom Line on Biofilms
Biofilms are complex, and they may cause infections and other health problems. However, biofilms are antibiotic-resistant, and as a result, the search for alternatives is a challenge for individuals who are dealing with biofilm-related infections.
Colostrum-LD® from Sovereign Laboratories is a bovine colostrum supplement that contains immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, lysozyme, lactoperoxidase, and other powerful immune components that help address biofilms. Colostrum and some plant derivatives are believed to play a beneficial role in weakening and breaking up the biofilms. To learn more about Colostrum-LD®, please read our blog.