Spatial and temporal patterns of biocide action against Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilms

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The dynamic antimicrobial action of chlorine, a quaternary ammonium compound, glutaraldehyde, and nisin within biofilm cell clusters of Staphylococcus epidermidis was investigated using time-lapse confocal scanning laser microscopy. The technique allowed for the simultaneous imaging of changes in biofilm structure and disruption of cellular membrane integrity through the loss of an unbound fluorophore loaded into bacterial cells prior to antimicrobial challenge. Each of the four antimicrobial agents produced distinct spatial and temporal patterns of fluorescence loss. The antimicrobial action of chlorine was localized around the periphery of biofilm cell clusters. Chlorine was the only antimicrobial agent that caused any biofilm removal. Treatment with the quaternary ammonium compound caused membrane permeabilization that started at the periphery of cell clusters, then migrated steadily inward. A secondary pattern superimposed on the penetration dynamic suggested a subpopulation of less-susceptible cells. These bacteria lost fluorescence much more slowly than the majority of the population. Nisin caused a rapid and uniform loss of green fluorescence from all parts of the biofilm without any removal of biofilm. Glutaraldehyde caused no biofilm removal and also no loss of membrane integrity. Measurements of biocide penetration and action time at the center of cell clusters yielded 46 min for 10 mg liter-1 chlorine, 21 min for 50 mg liter-1 chlorine, 25 min for the quaternary ammonium compound, and 4 min for nisin. These results underscore the distinction between biofilm removal and killing and reinforce the critical role of biocide reactivity in determining the rate of biofilm penetration.




Davison WM, Pitts B, Stewart PS, "Spatial and temporal patterns of biocide action against Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilms," Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 2010 54(7):2920-2927.
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