2021 Volume 36 Issue 1
Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis (MAH) is one of the most common nontuberculous mycobacterial pathogens responsible for chronic lung disease in humans. It is widely distributed in biofilms in natural and living environments. It is considered to be transmitted from the environment. Despite its importance in public health, the ultrastructure of the MAH biofilm remains largely unknown. The ultrastructure of a MAH-containing multispecies biofilm that formed naturally in a bathtub inlet was herein reported along with those of monoculture biofilms developed from microcolonies and pellicles formed in the laboratory. Scanning electron microscopy revealed an essentially multilayered bathtub biofilm that was packed with cocci and short and long rods connected by an extracellular matrix (ECM). Scattered mycobacterium-like rod-shaped cells were observed around biofilm chunks. The MAH monoculture biofilms that developed from microcolonies in vitro exhibited an assembly of flat layers covered with thin film-like ECM membranes. Numerous small bacterial cells (0.76±0.19 μm in length) were observed, but not embedded in ECM. A glycopeptidolipid-deficient strain did not develop the layered ECM membrane architecture, suggesting its essential role in the development of biofilms. The pellicle biofilm also consisted of flat layered cells covered with an ECM membrane and small cells. MAH alone generated a flat layered biofilm covered with an ECM membrane. This unique structure may be suitable for resistance to water flow and disinfectants and the exclusion of fast-growing competitors, and small cells in biofilms may contribute to the formation and transmission of bioaerosols.