Biofilm Formation and Dispersal and the Transmission of Human Pathogens

Trends Microbiol. 2005 Jan;13(1):7-10. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2004.11.004.


Several pathogenic bacterial species that are found in the environment can form complex multicellular structures on surfaces known as biofilms. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Vibrio cholerae and certain species of nontuberculous mycobacteria are examples of human pathogens that form biofilms in natural aquatic environments. We suggest that the dynamics of biofilm formation facilitates the transmission of pathogens by providing a stable protective environment and acting as a nidus for the dissemination of large numbers of microorganisms; both as detached biofilm clumps and by the fluid-driven dispersal of biofilm clusters along surfaces. We also suggest that emerging evidence indicates that biofilm formation conveys a selective advantage to certain pathogens by increasing their ability to persist under diverse environmental conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacterial Infections / transmission*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria / growth & development
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / growth & development
  • Vibrio cholerae / growth & development