THEY DRAIN BILLIONS from the U.S. economy every year. They can cause food to spoil, teeth to rot, and they can cause people to die – yet you may never have heard of them: Biofilms.
The basics of biofilms
From the plaque your dental hygienist constantly warns about to the slippery substance in your kitchen drain, you come in contact with biofilms daily. Biofilms form when bacteria attach themselves to a surface by secreting a sticky, sugary mix that acts as an adhesive.
Once established, they begin to form a matrix of bacterial cells that soon compose a colony, then a biomass. Once the individual cells detect neighbors, they form a “quorum” and begin to act as a unit. All of this is accomplished via a curious ability known as “quorum sensing.”
The mysterious world of bacteria provides a rich environment for research. As a layman, I am constantly enthralled by ongoing developments. Dr. Haley has been insisting the gut is central to your body and your health for years – now, science is decidedly backing that idea up. Your gut does more than eliminate waste. After all, “You are what you eat.”
How biofilms can be dangerous
Take a look at this time-lapse movie. It shows how a biofilm can develop … in this case, within a catheter. The end result is a blockage. A patient depending on the flow from this tube could be in instant and severe trouble.
This property of biofilms – the capability to block tubes or passages – is a bane to both medicine and industry. Unless the forming colonies are scraped free of the chosen surface, they can propagate profusely to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting humans counting on those mechanical devices to continue working.
Here are some of the ways biofilms can be dangerous and/or destructive:
- Biofilms can cause blight and disease in food crops
- Biofilms can decay teeth and lead to periodontal disease
- Biofilms can lower the efficiency of HVAC units
- Biofilms can attach to boat hulls and slow the vessel considerably
- Biofilms can protect members from eradication by antibiotics, making infections much more difficult to treat
Here is an illustrated look at how biofilms develop.
Is it possible for biofilms to be utilized in helpful ways?
Everything has value. Nature teaches us that.
Richard Longland, founder of The Arthroplasty Patient Foundation, says “biofilms are necessary for life.”
Research scientists seek to learn from the phenomena they observe and find ways to make their observations useful. Here are three practical uses for biofilms. This is but a sampling; there are more — and new uses are in development.
- Biofilms are used in wastewater treatment programs to pull bacteria from the treated substances
- Biofilms can be used to help clean up oil spills
- Biofilms are used in the extraction of precious metals
The following film is useful for one who wishes to gain a basic understanding of biofilms.
One last film … and a powerful question: “Why am I still sick?”
Here are some of the questions I have about biofilms.
- If biofilms are largely enabled by sugar, would cutting back on sugar help me halt internal biofilm construction?
- Would garlic, vinegar, and other natural remedies help cleanse my body of biofilms?
- Will probiotics and prebiotics help?
- Can raw Aloe vera gel help me stop internal damage from biofilms?
- How serious is this issue? Can my chronic medical condition be caused or exacerbated by biofilms?
If you leave your questions in the comments, I will ask Dr. Haley to help us better understand biofilms and how we should react to this research.