Bacterial biofilms in the human gastrointestinal tract
Probert, H.M. and Gibson, G.R. (2002) Bacterial biofilms in the human gastrointestinal tract. Current Issues in Intestinal Microbiology, 2002 (3). pp. 23-27. ISSN 1466-531X
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Official URL: http://www.horizonpress.com/ciim/v/v3/03.pdf
Microbial biofilms were first described in 1936 and subsequent research has unveiled their ubiquity and physiological distinction from free-living (planktonic) microorganisms. In light of their emerging significance this review examines the bacterial biofilms within the human gastrointestinal tract. Attention is paid to the nature of these mucosally- associated populations, focusing on the protected environment afforded by the continual secretion of mucus by host epithelial cells. It also examines the attributes possessed by various bacterial species that facilitate habitation of this microenvironment. Additionally, contrasts are drawn between planktonic bacteria of the lumen and sessile (biofilm) bacteria growing in close association with host cells and food particles. In particular the different fermentation profiles exhibited by these two fractions are discussed. The potential role of these communities in host health and disease, as well as the stabilisation of the lumenal population, is also considered. Reference is made to the state of mutualism that exists between these little understood populations and the host epithelia, thus highlighting their ecological significance in terms of gastrointestinal health.