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Water Sci Technol. 2003;47(5):105-16.

Rapid detection of biofilms and adherent pathogens using scanning confocal laser microscopy and episcopic differential interference contrast microscopy.

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  • 1Environmental Healthcare Unit, School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.


Knowledge of biofilm structure and function has changed significantly in the last few years due to advances in light microscopy. One pertinent example is the use of scanning confocal laser microscopy (SCLM) to visualise corrosion pits caused by the biofilm mosaic footprint on corroding metal surfaces. Nevertheless, SCLM has some limitations as to its widespread use, including cost, inability to observe motile bacteria and eukaryotic grazers within biofilms, and difficulty to scan a curved surface. By contrast, episcopic differential interference contrast (EDIC) microscopy has provided a rapid, real time analysis of biofilms on opaque, curved, natural or man-made surfaces without the need for cover slips and oil. EDIC, coupled with epi-fluorescence (EDIC/EF), microscopy has been used successfully to visualise the 3-D biofilm structure, physiological niches, protozoal grazing and iron biomineralization, and the location of specific pathogens such as Legionella pneumophila, Campylobacter jejuni and Cryptosporidium parvum. These species were identified using gold nanoparticles or fluorophores coupled to monoclonal antibodies or 16S rRNA probes, respectively. Among its many potential uses, the EDIC technique will provide a rapid procedure to facilitate the calibration of the modern generation of biofilm-sensing electrodes.

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