The new study has examined how bacteria clog medical devices, and the result is not pretty. The microbes join to create slimy ribbons that tangle and trap other passing bacteria, creating a full blockage in a startlingly short period of time.
The findings by researchers at Princeton University could help shape strategies for preventing clogging of devices such as stents, which are implanted in the body to keep open blood vessels and passages as well as water filters and other items that are susceptible to contamination.
The research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"For me the surprise was how quickly the bio-film streamers caused complete clogging," said researcher Howard Stone. "There was no warning that something bad was about to happen."
By constructing their own controlled environment, the researchers demonstrated that rough surfaces and pressure driven flow are characteristics of nature and need to be taken into account experimentally, reports Science Daily.
The work also allowed the researchers to explore which bacterial genes contribute to bio-film streamer formation. Previous studies, conducted under non-realistic conditions, identified several genes involved in formation of the bio-film streamers.
The Princeton researchers found that some of those previously identified genes were not needed for bio-film streamer formation in the more realistic habitat.