We share our world with perhaps billions of different species of bacteria. In our own bodies, bacteria make up 10 percent of our body weight. Although bacteria are pervasive in nearly every known ecosystem, we often forget they are around. However, communities of bacteria called biofilms are potentially dangerous to human health. Understanding the threat from biofilms can help you keep yourself and your facility safe.
What Is a Biofilm?
Like humans, bacteria are not solitary creatures. Rarely does a single bacterium float around freely before infecting someone. Rather, bacteria tend to form communities. This is a protective strategy, as it is much more difficult for our immune systems to combat bacteria when they join forces.
A biofilm is a structured community of bacteria. When bacteria are near a surface, they will join together and create a protective coating. This protective matrix consists of molecules bonded together like glue. This keeps bacteria in place and prevents them from dispersing. As the biofilm continues to grow, new sites appear on the surface of the film that attract other pathogens. Soon, several species of bacteria may form together to create a biofilm on a given surface.
As humans, we come into contact with potentially dangerous biofilms every day. For example, have you ever gone a few days without washing your reusable water bottle? You may notice that it has begun to feel slimy inside. This is a biofilm developing, making your moist water bottle surface home to millions of potentially harmful bacteria.
How Biofilms Can Impact Health
Biofilms can form nearly anywhere. Bacteria particularly enjoy surfaces that are moist, providing a good breeding ground for the next generations of bacteria. Pathogenic biofilms may develop around the house on toilets, countertops, sinks, showers or cutting boards. In schools or hospitals, biofilms may grow on drinking fountains, bathroom surfaces, wound dressings, catheters and other medical supplies.
Unfortunately, biofilms tend to be very resistant to antibiotics. Biofilms contribute to a variety of diseases, including cystic fibrosis, heart infection (bacterial endocarditis), ear infection, Legionnaire’s disease or hospital-acquired infections. These infections often require a long, high dose of antibiotics to fully rid the body of disease.
Infectious Disease Control to Manage Biofilms
As biofilms can be dangerous to human health, it is essential to take proper precautions for infectious disease control. In particularly, cleaning staff and medical personnel should undergo infection control training to learn about the development of biofilms and how to combat them. Eliminating biofilms from an environment significantly reduces the risk of infectious disease.
EcoShield is a leader in biological contamination cleaning, including training others to prevent infection. EcoShield can assess your facility’s current biofilm status and make recommendations to get harmful biofilms under control. Contact us to learn more about preventing pathogens from accumulating in your environment or to schedule a complimentary consultation.