Contrary to the planktonic state of bacteria, their biofilm form represents severe complications in areas such as human medicine or food industry due to the increasing resistance against harsh conditions and treatment. In the present study, infrared attenuated total reflection (IR-ATR) spectroscopy has been applied as an analytic tool studying Escherichia coli (E. coli) biofilm formation close to real time. We report on IR spectroscopic investigations on the biofilm formation via ATR waveguides probing the biofilm in the spectral window of 1800–900 cm−1 at dynamic flow conditions, which facilitated monitoring the growth dynamics during several days. Key IR bands are in the range 1700–1590 cm−1 (amide I), 1580–1490 cm−1 (amide II), and 1141–1006 cm−1 extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), which were evaluated as a function of time. Cyclic fluctuations of the amide I and amide II bands and a continuous increase of the EPS band were related to the starvation of bottom-layered bacteria caused by the nutrient gradient. Potential death of bacteria may then result in cannibalistic behavior known for E. coli colonies. Observing this behavior via IR spectroscopy allows revealing these cyclical changes in bottom-layered bacteria within the biofilm under continuous nutrient flow, in molecular detail, and during extended periods for the first time.
© 2019 The Author(s)
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