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Chapter 17 : Biofilms as Reservoirs for Disease
Category: Environmental Microbiology; Microbial Genetics and Molecular Biology
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There is concern that biofilms could act as reservoirs of pathogenic organisms due to the growth advantages and the protection from conventional means for controlling bacterial growth that biofilms provide. Given the importance of waterborne, nosocomial, and food-borne diseases, the widespread ability of bacteria to form biofilms, and the resistance characteristics of biofilms, an attempt has been made to synthesize the prevalence, disease characteristics, and biofilm-forming capacity of several important pathogens to present a picture of the present and emerging threat of biofilms to human health. Researchers selected organisms that have documented prevalence in the environment and in locations that allow ingestion or inhalation, documented ability to form biofilms, and ability to cause disease. Such microbes include the waterborne pathogens Aeromonas spp., Legionella pneumophila, Mycobacterium spp., and Vibrio cholerae, and the food-borne pathogens Campylobacter spp., L. monocytogenes, and Salmonella spp. In summary, biofilms act as reservoirs of disease in a wide variety of habitats, including natural surface waters, groundwater, drinking water systems, food surfaces, and food industry surfaces. The presence of pathogenic bacteria in biofilms is clearly a challenge for protecting public health given the changing demographics of the world population, the increase in immunocompromised individuals, and the continued problems with water and food quality in the world.