CRCA 2007: Say NO to Slime

Researchers are now able to signal slimes to disperse with knowledge of how the bacterial communities communicate making them more vulnerable to be broken and cleaned up.

This new cost-effective and environmentally friendly way of breaking down biofilms will assist industry to meet future environmental safety targets by reducing the need to use high concentrations of toxic antimicrobial compounds. Toxic biocides currently being used to remove biofilms with an annual cost to industry that runs to billions of dollars.

Mr Nicolas Barraud is a PhD student at The University of New South Wales and is working on a research project funded by the Environmental Biotechnology Cooperative Research Centre (EBCRC). [17 May 2007, CRCA Conference]

Barraud took part in Showcasing CRC Early Career Scientists, Cooperative Research Centres Association Conference, chaired by Professor Lyn Beazley, Chief Scientist of Western Australia.

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Barraud’s bug busting research involved gaining knowledge of how communities of bacteria communicate with each other, then tricking the bacteria into dispersing, becoming more vulnerable to bactericides and antibiotics.

“These bacteria just love getting together. Because they need water I like to think of it as a pool party. What makes it really interesting with these groups of bacteria is that they communicate all the time. All of their movements are coordinated by how they communicate. For example, they will tell each when it’s time to get together for the party, or when to stay together, and ultimately when it’s time to end the party and go their separate ways”.

Low doses of nitric oxide (NO) are used to trick the bacteria into dispersing. Once separated, bacteria are more vulnerable to bactericides and antibiotics, which make the existing treatment methods more effective.

“It is just like whispering their own signal for the bacteria to detach”, Barraud said.

The low doses of NO used to break up the slimes are non-toxic to humans, animals and the environment.

During his talk, Barraud cited the many different industries that would benefit from the commercialisation of this environmentally friendly and cost effective way of dealing with persistent bacterial biofilms.

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