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Institut für Wasser- und Umweltsystemmodellierung - IWS



"Impairment of the bacterial biofilm stability by triclosan"

The accumulation of the widely-used antibacterial and antifungal compound triclosan (TCS) in freshwaters raises concerns about the impact of this harmful chemical on the biofilms that are the dominant life style of microorganisms in aquatic systems. However, investigations to-date rarely go beyond effects at the cellular, physiological or morphological level. The present paper focuses on bacterial biofilms addressing the possible chemical impairment of their functionality, while also examining their substratum stabilization potential as one example of an important ecosystem service. The development of a bacterial assemblage of natural composition - isolated from sediments of the Eden Estuary (Scotland, UK) - on non-cohesive glass beads (< 63 µm) and exposed to a range of triclosan concentrations (control, 2 - 100 µg L-1) was monitored over time by Magnetic Particle Induction (MagPI). In parallel, bacterial cell numbers, division rate, community composition (DGGE) and EPS (extracellular polymeric substances: carbohydrates and proteins) secretion were determined. While the triclosan exposure did not prevent bacterial settlement, biofilm development was increasingly inhibited by increasing TCS levels. The surface binding capacity (MagPI) of the assemblages was positively correlated to the microbial secreted EPS matrix. The EPS concentrations and composition (quantity and quality) were closely linked to bacterial growth, which was affected by enhanced TCS exposure. Furthermore, TCS induced significant changes in bacterial community composition as well as a significant decrease in bacterial diversity. The impairment of the stabilization potential of bacterial biofilm under even low, environmentally relevant TCS levels is of concern since the resistance of sediments to erosive forces has large implications for the dynamics of sediments and associated pollutant dispersal. In addition, the surface adhesive capacity of the biofilm acts as a sensitive measure of ecosystem effects.