Biofilm dispersal: mechanisms, clinical implications, and potential therapeutic uses

J Dent Res. 2010 Mar;89(3):205-18. doi: 10.1177/0022034509359403. Epub 2010 Feb 5.


Like all sessile organisms, surface-attached communities of bacteria known as biofilms must release and disperse cells into the environment to colonize new sites. For many pathogenic bacteria, biofilm dispersal plays an important role in the transmission of bacteria from environmental reservoirs to human hosts, in horizontal and vertical cross-host transmission, and in the exacerbation and spread of infection within a host. The molecular mechanisms of bacterial biofilm dispersal are only beginning to be elucidated. Biofilm dispersal is a promising area of research that may lead to the development of novel agents that inhibit biofilm formation or promote biofilm cell detachment. Such agents may be useful for the prevention and treatment of biofilms in a variety of industrial and clinical settings. This review describes the current status of research on biofilm dispersal, with an emphasis on studies aimed to characterize dispersal mechanisms, and to identify environmental cues and inter- and intracellular signals that regulate the dispersal process. The clinical implications of biofilm dispersal and the potential therapeutic applications of some of the most recent findings will also be discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control
  • Bacterial Infections / transmission*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Bacterial Proteins / classification*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / prevention & control
  • Humans


  • Bacterial Proteins