Biofilm Detection Report

On 24 September 2018, NBIC hosted its first academic/industry workshop on Biofilm Detection. Over 70 participants attended, from over 40 organisations across the UK. We thank all those who attended and contributed to the workshop.

Executive Summary

The understanding of biofilms is key to discovering, controlling and directing the behaviour of microbial communities for sustainable environmental, engineering, public health and medical applications. The 4 interventional strategies being explored by NBIC and its partners are the prevention, detection, management and engineering of biofilms. This workshop was aimed at exploring unmet needs in biofilm detection. 14 NBIC partner organisations shared their unmet detection needs (see Appendix 1) and 9 of these led syndicates to discuss the key challenges and way forward. There were 39 attendees from industry and 26 from universities/research institutions.

A wide number of common themes emerged.

Problem owners usually wanted to understand:

• Is there a biofilm present?

• Where exactly is it? (e.g. location in a wound, a water system or industrial pipework)

• What can you tell me about it? (e.g. composition, characterisation and impact)

A wide range of possible detection approaches exist and were reviewed (from spectroscopic to biological techniques) and some novel ones were proposed. A key challenge is to adapt these to be usable in an in-situ, point of care context in the industrial or human/medical setting and not just for research, lab or product development investigations.

Across all the medical applications where detection was critical e.g. wounds, orthopaedics etc. there was a recognised need for the requirement to be able to detect and confirm the presence of a biofilm in a standardised reproducible manner, using approved protocols that would gain clinical and regulatory acceptance for both primary clinical diagnostic use, and use in controlled trials of anti- or biofilm-promoting interventions. In some settings (medical and otherwise) there was also a coupling between prevention and detection, in that detection becomes a method for assessing the effectiveness of prevention strategies. Additionally, there is a specific need to be able to identify or detect a “healthy” as opposed to an “unhealthy” or disease-causing biofilm, for example, the oral cavity, which was a recurring theme.

In industrial applications such as water and filtration systems, detection poses significant challenges relating to access to possibly remote surfaces down or outside pipework in order to locate a biofilm even if in-line sensing is able to detect the presence of one somewhere in the system and that damage may be occurring.

In consumer applications around the home then the ability to detect a biofilm in-situ on a surface is a key need. Whilst a number of techniques have the potential to achieve this the key challenge is the creation of easy to use approaches that could be used and interpreted by the consumer.

Finally, there was recurring need for wider engagement with consumers, regulators and other stakeholders in the need for both better definition of standards and policy development in the field of biofilms and biofilm detection.

The report is now published and available for download. Please forward this to others in your organisation who may find it useful.

Publication date: 23/11/2019. Author: The National Biofilms Innovation Centre.