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Integration and Proliferation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA01 in Multispecies Biofilms


Despite an increased awareness of biofilm formation by pathogens and the role of biofilms in human infections, the potential role of environmental biofilms as an intermediate stage in the host-to-host cycle is poorly described. To initiate infection, pathogens in biofilms on inanimate environmental surfaces must detach from the biofilm and be transmitted to a susceptible individual in numbers large enough to constitute an infectious dose. Additionally, while detachment has been recognized as a discrete event in the biofilm lifestyle, it has not been studied to the same extent as biofilm development or biofilm physiology. Successful integration of Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PA01 expressing green fluorescent protein (PA01GFP), employed here as a surrogate pathogen, into multispecies biofilm communities isolated and enriched from sink drains in public washrooms and a hospital intensive care unit is described. Confocal laser scanning microscopy indicated that PA01GFP cells were most frequently located in the deeper layers of the biofilm, near the attachment surface, when introduced into continuous flow cells before or at the same time as the multispecies drain communities. A more random integration pattern was observed when PA01GFP was introduced into established multispecies biofilms. Significant numbers of single PA01GFP cells were continuously released from the biofilms to the bulk liquid environment, regardless of the order of introduction into the flow cell. Challenging the multispecies biofilms containing PA01GFP with sub-lethal concentrations of an antibiotic, chelating agent and shear forces that typically prevail at distances away from the point of treatment showed that environmental biofilms provide a suitable habitat where pathogens are maintained and protected, and from where they are continuously released.

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The research was funded by grants from the Canada Research Chair Program and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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Correspondence to Gideon M. Wolfaardt.

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Ghadakpour, M., Bester, E., Liss, S.N. et al. Integration and Proliferation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA01 in Multispecies Biofilms. Microb Ecol 68, 121–131 (2014).

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  • Colony Form Unit
  • Extracellular Polymeric Substance
  • Flow Cell
  • Test Strain
  • Planktonic Cell