Social Microbes

Microbes like living together, as it turns out.

We learn in school that bacteria are single celled organisms, self sufficient in their genetic and protein machinery. However, in nature bacteria and other microbes like fungi actually prefer to live in communities, with heterogeneous populations that confer important properties to the survival of the community. This is called a biofilm.

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tom Coenye, who explains the concept of biofilms, and also some of the exciting interdisciplinary research that he has been doing to access the depths of a microbial city (hint: it involves lasers!). Tom also talks about the current Corona virus situation as a microbiologists who watches the media and also the science. He emphasizes how science is a constantly changing entity, as more and newer evidence is continuously gathered. While this can be understandably confusing as conclusions and recommendations change almost daily, this is the very nature of science that we must understand and accept.

Follow Tom also on Twitter!


  1.  Van Acker H, Van Dijck P, Coenye T. Molecular mechanisms of antimicrobial tolerance and resistance in bacterial and fungal biofilms. Trends in Microbiology 2014 Jun;22(6):326-33. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2014.02.001.
  2. Crabbé A, Jensen PØ, Bjarnsholt T, Coenye T. Antimicrobial Tolerance and Metabolic Adaptations in Microbial Biofilms. Trends in Microbiology 2019 Oct;27(10):850-863. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2019.05.003.
  3. Teirlinck E, Xiong R, Brans T, Forier K, Fraire J, Van Acker H, Matthijs N, De Rycke R, De Smedt SC, Coenye T, Braeckmans K. Laser-induced vapour nanobubbles improve drug diffusion and efficiency in bacterial biofilms. Nature Communications 2018 Oct 30;9(1):4518. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06884-w
  4. E.Teirlinck, J.C.Frairea, H.Van Acker, J.Wille, R.Swimberghe, T.Brans, R.Xiong, M.Meire, R.J.G.De Moord, S.C.De Smedt, T.Coenye, K.Braeckmans. Laser-induced vapor nanobubbles improve diffusion in biofilms of antimicrobial agents for wound care. Biofilm Volume 1, December 2019.

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