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Keywords:

  • biofilm control and removal;
  • phage;
  • chlorination;
  • combined treatment;
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Abstract

Bacterial biofilms are a growing concern in a broad range of areas. In this study, a mixture of RNA bacteriophages isolated from municipal wastewater was used to control and remove biofilms. At the concentrations of 400 and 4 × 107 PFU/mL, the phages inhibited Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm formation by 45 ± 15% and 73 ± 8%, respectively. At the concentrations of 6,000 and 6 × 107 PFU/mL, the phages removed 45 ± 9% and 75 ± 5% of pre-existing P. aeruginosa biofilms, respectively. Chlorine reduced biofilm growth by 86 ± 3% at the concentration of 210 mg/L, but it did not remove pre-existing biofilms. However, a combination of phages (3 × 107 PFU/mL) and chlorine at this concentration reduced biofilm growth by 94 ± 2% and removed 88 ± 6% of existing biofilms. In a continuous flow system with continued biofilm growth, a combination of phages (a one-time treatment at the concentration of 1.9 × 108 PFU/mL for 1 h first) with chlorine removed 97 ± 1% of biofilms after Day 5 while phage and chlorine treatment alone removed 89 ± 1% and 40 ± 5%, respectively. For existing biofilms, a combined use of a lower phage concentration (3.8 × 105 PFU/mL) and chlorination with a shorter time duration (12 h) followed by continuous water flushing removed 96 ± 1% of biofilms in less than 2 days. Laser scanning confocal microscopy supplemented with electron microscopy indicated that the combination treatment resulted in biofilms with lowest cell density and viability. These results suggest that the combination treatment of phages and chlorine is a promising method to control and remove bacterial biofilms from various surfaces. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2013; 110: 286–295. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.