Filaments in curved streamlines: Rapid formation of Staphylococcus aureus biofilm streamers

Minyoung Kevin Kim, Knut Drescher, On Shun Pak, Bonnie Lynn Bassler, Howard A. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Biofilms are surface-associated conglomerates of bacteria that are highly resistant to antibiotics. These bacterial communities can cause chronic infections in humans by colonizing, for example, medical implants, heart valves, or lungs. Staphylococcus aureus, a notorious human pathogen, causes some of the most common biofilm-related infections. Despite the clinical importance of S. aureus biofilms, it remains mostly unknown how physical effects, in particular flow, and surface structure influence biofilm dynamics. Here we use model microfluidic systems to investigate how environmental factors, such as surface geometry, surface chemistry, and fluid flow affect biofilm development of S. aureus. We discovered that S. aureus rapidly forms flow-induced, filamentous biofilm streamers, and furthermore if surfaces are coated with human blood plasma, streamers appear within minutes and clog the channels more rapidly than if the channels are uncoated. To understand how biofilm streamer filaments reorient in flows with curved streamlines to bridge the distances between corners, we developed a mathematical model based on resistive force theory of slender filaments. Understanding physical aspects of biofilm formation of S. aureus may lead to new approaches for interrupting biofilm formation of this pathogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number065024
JournalNew Journal of Physics
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • biofilm
  • biofilm streamers
  • flow
  • microbiology
  • microfluidics


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