Modelling the development and formation of biofilms

A problem presented at the UK MMSG Oxford 2005.

Presented by:
Prof Judith Armitage (Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford)
J Armitage, S Godfrey, S Jabbari, R Kobayashi, H Packer, J Siggers, J Ward, J Wattis

Problem Description

A biofilm is a bacterial colony living in a secreted film of liquid. They are of major importance because they cause pipe fouling that eventually forms on medical implants. Additionally they are the basis for plaque formation and thus dental cavities. The formation and maturation of biofilms is not well understood, nor is the mechanism regulating bacterial colony size and species complement. A key ingredient in understanding the behaviour of bacterial biofilm is the way that bacteria communicate (the process known as quorum sensing). Different species use different molecules for communication; some sense only their own molecules, others sense their own and other species' molecules. There is also evidence that colonies near the biofilm surface behave differently from those in the bulk. The MMSG investigation will focus on the effects of local concentrations of bacterial cells and the effect of diffusion of nutrients and communication molecules on biofilm development.

Download the full problem description

Study Group Report

Several mathematical approaches have been applied to investigate a number of aspects of biofilm growth and development. The models developed areas relevant to general bacterial biofilms and to Rhodobacter sphaeroides. They include aspects of chain formation, pillar formation, and Planktonic cell dispersal and quorum sensing.

Download the full report