'Should I stay or should I go?' Bacterial attachment vs biofilm formation on surface-modified membranes

Roy Bernstein, Viatcheslav Freger, Jin Hyung Lee, Yong Guy Kim, Jintae Lee, Moshe Herzberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


A number of techniques are used for testing the anti-biofouling activity of surfaces, yet the correlation between different results is often questionable. In this report, the correlation between initial bacterial deposition (fast tests, reported previously) and biofilm growth (much slower tests) was analyzed on a pristine and a surface-modified reverse osmosis membrane ESPA-1. The membrane was modified with grafted hydrophilic polymers bearing negatively charged, positively charged and zwitter-ionic moieties. Using three different bacterial strains it was found that there was no general correlation between the initial bacterial deposition rates and biofilm growth on surfaces, the reasons being different for each modified surface. For the negatively charged surface the slowest deposition due to the charge repulsion was eventually succeeded by the largest biofilm growth, probably due to secretion of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) that mediated a strong attachment. For the positively charged surface, short-term charge attraction by quaternary amine groups led to the fastest deposition, but could be eventually overridden by their antimicrobial activity, resulting in non-consistent results where in some cases a lower biofilm formation rate was observed. The results indicate that initial deposition rates have to be used and interpreted with great care, when used for assessing the anti-biofouling activity of surfaces. However, for a weakly interacting 'low-fouling' zwitter-ionic surface, the positive correlation between initial cell deposition and biofilm growth, especially under flow, suggests that for this type of coating initial deposition tests may be fairly indicative of anti-biofouling potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-376
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2014


  • anti-biofouling surfaces
  • biofilm
  • graft-polymerization
  • initial deposition
  • membrane modification
  • membranes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Water Science and Technology


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