Modeling biocide action against biofilms


A phenomenological model of biocide action against microbial biofilms was derived. Processes incorporated in the model include bulk flow in and out of a well-mixed reactor, transport of dissolved species into the biofilm, substrate consumption by bacterial metabolism, bacterial growth, advection of cell mass within the biofilm, cell detachment from the biofilm, cell death, and biocide concentration-dependent disinfection. Simulations were performed to analyze the general behavior of the model and to perform preliminary sensitivity analysis to identify key input parameters. The model captured several general features of antimicrobial agent action against biofilms that have been observed widely by experimenters and practitioners. These included (1) rapid disinfection followed by biofilm regrowth, (2) slower detachment than disinfection, and (3) reduced susceptibility of microorganisms in biofilms. The results support the plausibility of a mechanism of biofilm resistance in which the biocide is neutralized by reaction with biofilm constituents, leading to a reduction in the bulk biocide concentration and, more significantly, biocide concentration gradients within the biofilm. Sensitivity experiments and analyses identified which input parameters influence key response variables. Each of three response variables was sensitive to each of the five input parameters, but they were most sensitive to the initial biofilm thickness and next most sensitive to the biocide disinfection rate coefficient. Statistical regression modeling produced simple equations for approximating the response variables for situations within the range of conditions covered by the sensitivity experiment. The model should be useful as a tool for studying alternative biocide control strategies. For example, the simulations suggested that a good interval between pulses of biocide is the time to minimum thickness.




Stewart, P.S., M.A. Hamilton, B.R. Goldstein, and B.T. Schneider, "Modeling biocide action against biofilms," Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 49(4):445-455 (1996).
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