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J Biomater Appl. 1990 Oct;5(2):91-106.

Physical chemical description of bacterial adhesion.

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Dept. of Bioprocess Engineering, Delft University of Technology.


For the description of general bacterial adhesion phenomena two different physicochemical approaches are available. The first one, based on a surface Gibbs energy balance, assumes intimate contact between the interacting surfaces. According to this approach adhesion is solely related to the Gibbs energies of the surfaces involved. The second approach, based on colloid chemical theories (DLVO theory), allows for two types of adhesion: 1. secondary minimum adhesion, which is often weak and reversible, and 2. irreversible primary minimum adhesion. In the first case a thin water film is present between the interacting surfaces. In the DLVO approach adhesion is determined by long range interactions, i.e., Van der Waals and electrostatic interactions. Van der Waals interactions may be related to the hydrophobicity of the cell wall. For the measurement of bacterial hydrophobicity and electrokinetic potential several macroscopic methods are available. Based on a literature review of the influence of both surface characteristics on adhesion, it is concluded that the surface Gibbs energy balance approach is not adequate to describe the majority of adhesion phenomena. On the other hand the DLVO-theory describes the observations fairly well, especially in the case of reversible (secondary minimum) adhesion. The influence of adsorbing (in)organic compounds, extracellular polymers and cell surface appendages on adhesion can also be predicted by a DLVO-type approach.

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