Microbial biofilms in the human gastrointestinal tract

J Appl Microbiol. 2007 May;102(5):1187-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2007.03287.x.


The human gastrointestinal tract contains rich and diverse microbiotas along its length. However, while extensive studies have been made on lumenal bacterial communities in the gut, less work has been carried out on organisms growing in biofilms, where individual groups of bacteria exist in a multiplicity of different microhabitats and metabolic niches associated with the mucosa, the mucus layer and particulate surfaces in the gut lumen. Bacteria and yeasts also occur in biofilms attached to artificial surfaces and devices implanted in the host, such as in patients being fed via enteral tubes. Although we are just beginning to investigate the composition and metabolic activities of these structures, increasing evidence suggests that they are important to the host in both health and disease. There is mounting interest in mucosal biofilms in the colon, especially with respect to their role in inflammatory bowel disease. Because bacteria growing in biofilms are more resistant to antibiotics than unattached organisms, it is often difficult to modify the structure and composition of these communities, or to eradicate them from the body. However, recent work has shown that there is considerable potential to alter the species composition of mucosal biofilms in a beneficial way using synbiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use