Is gas-discharge plasma a new solution to the old problem of biofilm inactivation?

Microbiology (Reading). 2009 Mar;155(Pt 3):724-732. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.021501-0.


Conventional disinfection and sterilization methods are often ineffective with biofilms, which are ubiquitous, hard-to-destroy microbial communities embedded in a matrix mostly composed of exopolysaccharides. The use of gas-discharge plasmas represents an alternative method, since plasmas contain a mixture of charged particles, chemically reactive species and UV radiation, whose decontamination potential for free-living, planktonic micro-organisms is well established. In this study, biofilms were produced using Chromobacterium violaceum, a Gram-negative bacterium present in soil and water and used in this study as a model organism. Biofilms were subjected to an atmospheric pressure plasma jet for different exposure times. Our results show that 99.6 % of culturable cells are inactivated after a 5 min treatment. The survivor curve shows double-slope kinetics with a rapid initial decline in c.f.u. ml(-1) followed by a much slower decline with D values that are longer than those for the inactivation of planktonic organisms, suggesting a more complex inactivation mechanism for biofilms. DNA and ATP determinations together with atomic force microscopy and fluorescence microscopy show that non-culturable cells are still alive after short plasma exposure times. These results indicate the potential of plasma for biofilm inactivation and suggest that cells go through a sequential set of physiological and morphological changes before inactivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms*
  • Chromobacterium / drug effects
  • Chromobacterium / growth & development*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Gases / pharmacology*
  • Microbial Viability
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Sterilization / methods*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Gases