Understanding the numerous factors that can affect biofilm formation and stability remain poorly understood. One of the major limitations is the accurate measurement of biofilm stability and cohesiveness in real-time when exposed to changing environmental conditions. Here we present a novel method to measure biofilm strength: interfacial rheology. By culturing a range of bacterial biofilms on an air-liquid interface we were able to measure their viscoelastic growth profile during and after biofilm formation and subsequently alter growth conditions by adding surfactants or changing the nutrient composition of the growth medium. We found that different bacterial species had unique viscoelastic growth profiles, which was also highly dependent on the growth media used. We also found that we could reduce biofilm formation by the addition of surfactants or changing the pH, thereby altering the viscoelastic properties of the biofilm. Using this technique we were able to monitor changes in viscosity, elasticity and surface tension online, under constant and varying environmental conditions, thereby providing a complementary method to better understand the dynamics of both biofilm formation and dispersal.
Rühs, P. A., Böni, L., Fuller, G. G., Inglis, R. F., & Fischer, P. (2013). In-situ quantification of the interfacial rheological response of bacterial biofilms to environmental stimuli. PLoS ONE, 8(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0078524