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Chapter 21 : Concluding Remarks and Future Directions
The term 'biofilms' fills us with excitement. For many microbial scientists biofilms represent a new perception of microbial existence, and this new perception is leading to innumerable new insights. The predominance of microbial existence on surfaces has long been recognized. However, due to the early development of liquid and pure culture techniques, microbiology was dominated by the study of planktonic cells for over one hundred years. In the early 1980s an important trend began among some environmental microbiologists and engineers to analyze surface associated microbes both in the field and in the laboratory. For almost every organism that has been investigated, one can now draw working models for the steps in the pathways of biofilm formation and these steps have genes associated with them. There are genes expressed during each step of development that can serve as reporters of that stage, and there are genes whose function has been shown to be essential for each particular step to be completed successfully. Biofilm genetics is still in its infancy because researchers are still predominantly finding genes essential for biofilm formation or genes expressed in biofilms. Analyses of microbial activities on surfaces will continue to provide new insights into the marvelous and astounding diversity of the microbial world.