A modified chemostat system to study the ecology of oral biofilms

D. U. Bradshaw, Phillip Marsh, K. M. Schilling, D. Cummins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Previously, we developed a chemostat system to study the behaviour and properties of a community of up to 10 species of oral bacteria. The present study describes modification of this system to incorporate removable and replaceable hydroxyapatite (the major mineral in human dental enamel) disks on which biofilms could develop. Hydroxypapatite disks were immersed in the chemostat for known time periods, and the bacterial content of biofilms determined by viable counting. Initial deposition rates were rapid, with all 10 species detected after 1 h, and the numbers of bacteria in biofilms continued to increase for 21 d. The species composition of biofilms reflected that of the surrounding fluid phase, and showed only limited signs of the type of 'species succession' which is observed in developing dental plaque in vivo, although anaerobic species increased in proportion in older biofilms. Four-day biofilms showed the least variability and were chosen as the 'standard biofilm' for more detailed study. Variability in the bacterial composition of 4-d biofilms was comparable both within a single chemostat run and between independent chemostat runs. Glucose pulsing in the absence of pH control resulted in the selection of cariogenic species; the disruption of the biofilm community was less marked than that of the equivalent planktonic culture. The model system has considerable potential in studying the effects of a variety of factors on biofilm development, as well as in comparing the efficacy of antimicrobial systems against biofilms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-130
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Bacteriology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1996


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