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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013, Article ID 470867, 12 pages
Research Article

Microbial Adhesion and Biofilm Formation on Microfiltration Membranes: A Detailed Characterization Using Model Organisms with Increasing Complexity

1Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis, KU Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 23, P.O. Box 2461, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
2Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, KU Leuven, Charles Deberiotstraat 32, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Received 2 April 2013; Accepted 24 June 2013

Academic Editor: Dimitrios Karpouzas

Copyright © 2013 L. Vanysacker et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Since many years, membrane biofouling has been described as the Achilles heel of membrane fouling. In the present study, an ecological assay was performed using model systems with increasing complexity: a monospecies assay using Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Escherichia coli separately, a duospecies assay using both microorganisms, and a multispecies assay using activated sludge with or without spiked P. aeruginosa. The microbial adhesion and biofilm formation were evaluated in terms of bacterial cell densities, species richness, and bacterial community composition on polyvinyldifluoride, polyethylene, and polysulfone membranes. The data show that biofouling formation was strongly influenced by the kind of microorganism, the interactions between the organisms, and the changes in environmental conditions whereas the membrane effect was less important. The findings obtained in this study suggest that more knowledge in species composition and microbial interactions is needed in order to understand the complex biofouling process. This is the first report describing the microbial interactions with a membrane during the biofouling development.