Microrheology and spatial heterogeneity of Staphylococcus aureus biofilms modulated by hydrodynamic shear and biofilm-degrading enzymes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Particle tracking microrheology was used to investigate the viscoelasticity of Staphylococcus aureus biofilms grown in microfluidic cells at various flow rates and when subjected to biofilm-degrading enzymes. Biofilm viscoelasticity was found to harden as a function of shear rate, but soften with increasing height away from the attachment surface in good agreement with previous bulk results. Ripley’s K-function was used to quantify the spatial distribution of the bacteria within the biofilm. For all conditions, biofilms would cluster as a function of height during growth. The effects of Proteinase K and DNase-1 on the viscoelasticity of biofilms were also investigated. Proteinase K caused an order of magnitude change in the compliances, softening the biofilms. However, DNase-1 was found to have no significant effects over the first 6 hours of development, indicating DNA is less important in biofilm maintenance during the initial stages of growth. Our results demonstrate that during the preliminary stages of Staphylococcus aureus biofilm development column-like structures with a vertical gradient of viscoelasticity are established and modulated by the hydrodynamic shear caused by fluid flow in the surrounding environment. An understanding of these mechanical properties will provide more accurate insights for removal strategies of early-stage biofilms.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3553-3561
Number of pages9
Issue number9
Early online date1 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2019