Germ Theory vs. Community Theory in Understanding and Controlling the Proliferation of Biofilms

Adv Dent Res. 1997 Apr;11(1):4-13. doi: 10.1177/08959374970110011501.


Germ theory and pure culture methods have provided invaluable information concerning the role of bacteria in diseases resulting from a single organism which bypasses a host's defenses. However, they do not provide sufficient information concerning the synergisms which allow the members of biofilm communities to proliferate more effectively as communities rather than as individuals. The mechanisms of these synergies are potential targets for antimicrobial agents as well as potential mechanisms of resistance to antimicrobial agents. Understanding community-level phenomena in oral biology requires the culture, identification, and classification of functional plaque communities as well as new methods of identifying and quantifying communal relationships. Cultured biofilm communities also provide ideal models of bacterial self-organization in which information related to adaptive strategies arises not only through the recombination of genes within genomes, but also through the recombination of organisms within communities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Ecosystem
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Selection, Genetic