Building Biofilms

Building what?!
Biofilms are everywhere. They are in your homes (think about the scum around your bath/shower head and sinks/plugs), in the natural environment (that slippery slime on rocks), and they’re actually really important in medicine/healthcare.

The most common example of a biofilm is dental plaque.

Picture of teeth showing dental plaque

This activity introduces the concept of biofilms through the use of visual aids (posters and workbook), and makes excellent use of a novel approach using plastic building blocks.

These blocks are used to demonstrate how biofilms form, their characteristics and what makes them important in healthcare, and why they are particularly difficult to treat with antibiotics/medicines.

The two approaches for this activity include an educator-led demonstration of biofilm formation, and a competitive building competition that the participants get involved in teams with building a biofilm structure within given time and resource limitations.

The teams then switch to the opposing side’s biofilm structure, and using provided ‘antimicrobial balls’ (soft balls), they can destroy the biofilm structure!

This opens opportunities to discuss biofilm formation, structure, characteristics and post-disruption, the integrity of the biofilm, choice of medicines and the role of persister cells that survive beyond the biofilm disruption.

This is a huge hit (excuse the pun) with schools that thoroughly enjoy the competitive aspect of the activity, and the novel approach to engage with a typically under-appreciated phenomenon.