Biofilms are All Around Us

What are biofilms? Biofilms are communities of living micro-organisms, such as bacteria or fungi, that evolve and grow together. Without realising it, you encounter biofilms every day. Microbial biofilms and communities form some of the largest biomass activity centres on the planet, with an estimated 96% of microbes on Earth found in biofilms. They thrive in wet areas—ranging from the slime on rocks in streams to washing machines and showers, and even our own bodies, like dental plaque on teeth.

What are biofilms?

More Than Just a Microorganism

Contemporary research has shown that when these microorganisms group together to form a biofilm, the biofilm is much more than just a collection of microorganisms; it can be seen as a new material.

Organisms Communicating Together

A bit like LEGO pieces: one LEGO piece alone isn’t very useful, and neither is a stack of unassembled pieces. However, when you start assembling them, they create something entirely new with unique functions, different from the unassembled stack.

In biofilms, microorganisms communicate and self-assemble, creating a new material (a film) with properties very different from those of the individual microorganisms.

What are biofilms?

Biofilm Life Cycle


The biofilm matures as attached micro-organisms multiply, colonising the surface and recruiting new members. These new members are embedded in self-secreted extracellular polymeric substance (EPS), a sticky slime-like material consisting of DNA, polysaccharides, and proteins, forming a structured 3D matrix.

Biofilm Life Cycle provided by Orel Soren. 

Why is Biofilm Research Important?

Biofilms are central to our most important global challenges – from infections, antimicrobial resistance and food safety to water security, marine biofouling and corrosion and exert significant economic, social and environmental impacts estimated at $5 trillion per annum. Biofilms are all around us, so both fundamental and applied research on biofilms can have significant implications and practical applications in the world around us.

The Forefront of Biofilm Research

This can range from fighting antibiotic resistance to engineering anti-clogging pipes, from designing improved, more targeted drugs to creating new long-lasting paints for boats. This is why NBIC has been established: to be at the forefront of biofilm research and deliver significant and impactful innovations for society.

Prof Miguel Camara

Get Biofilm Aware

We’ve compiled educational resources to enhance knowledge and understanding of these valuable and powerful micro-organisms.