martin oeggerli

The little great world of microbes.

This amazing picture shows mouth microbes. The human mouth hosts a panoply of microbes, some taking up residence on the mouth lining (blue) within days after birth. Harmful species form biofilms, like the plaque that encourages tooth decay, or colonize the crevices between teeth and gums, causing periodontal disease. 

Generally, a biofilm is any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other on a surface. These adherent cells are frequently embedded within a self-produced matrix of extracellular polymeric substance (EPS). Biofilm extracellular polymeric substance, which is also referred to as slime, is a polymeric conglomeration generally composed of extracellular DNA, proteins, and polysaccharides. Biofilms may form on living or non-living surfaces and can be prevalent in natural, industrial and hospital settings.

Environment of the biofilm allows microbes to cooperate and interact in various ways. The main clinical problem about biofilms is that one benefit of this environment is increased resistance to detergents and antibiotics, as the dense extracellular matrix and the outer layer of cells protect the interior of the community. In some cases antibiotic resistance can be increased a thousandfold.

(Photograph by Martin Oeggerli, with support from School of Life Sciences, FHNW).