Biofilms are communities of microorganisms that attach to various surfaces and are widely associated with infection for animals and plants. Our investigation is focussed on a current and growing concern: the distribution and formation of biofilms in washing machines. Many countries wash clothes at reduced temperatures around 30 to 40 °C degrees rather than at higher temperatures above 60 °C that would kill the bacteria. Survival of the bacteria is associated with biofouling, malodour and an increased infection risk due to the distribution of human pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa into the environment. P. aeruginosa is one of the predominant bacteria found in washing machines and is highly resistant to many antibiotics. Little is known about environmental microniches present in biofilms. In this work, we focus on the pH variation throughout P. aeruginosa biofilms knowing that the pH can influence biofilm formation and could be an important aspect for the prevention of biofilm formation. Here, we use novel pH-sensitive optical nanosensors that penetrate P. aeruginosa biofilms and emit fluorescence in response to variation in pH. Confocal laser scanning microscopy revealed that the nanosensors can penetrate biofilms within minutes and interact with the biofilm structure. Different washing detergents were tested resulting in altered biofilm formation and killing abilities. Using time lapse imaging, pH changes were tracked in real time at a microcolony and single cell level which will ultimately facilitate monitoring of environmental changes induced as biocides penetrate biofilms, underpinning the development of more effective antimicrobials to limit the emergence of AMR.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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