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J Appl Microbiol. 1998 Sep;85(3):495-500.

Analysis of biocide transport limitation in an artificial biofilm system.

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1
Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman 59717, USA. phil_s@erc.montana.edu

Abstract

An alginate gel bead artificial biofilm system was used to assay biofilm susceptibility to four biocides and to analyse the extent to which each agent penetrated the biofilm. Chlorine, glutaraldehyde, an isothiazolone, and a quaternary ammonium compound were tested on alginate-entrapped Enterobacter aerogenes in gel beads ranging from 1.8 to 6 mm in diameter. Gel-entrapped bacteria were less susceptible to all four antimicrobial agents than were planktonic micro-organisms. The degree of kill measured in artificial biofilm gel beads depended on the size of the gel bead and the cell density at which it was loaded. Disinfection efficacy decreased as gel bead radius or cell density increased. The manifest dependence of biofilm disinfection efficacy on the physical properties of the artificial biofilm (radius and cell density) suggests the impingement of transport limitation of biocide transport into the biofilm. A previously developed theory of biocide reaction and diffusion in biofilm was tested by calculating an appropriate Thiele modulus. In accordance with the theory, the efficacy of all four biocides decreased, albeit noisily, as the Thiele modulus exceeded 1. This result demonstrates that transport limitation can impact antimicrobial performance against biofilms not only of oxidizing biocides but also of nonoxidizing agents.

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