Viruses in biofilms

Aquatic biofilms are microbial aggregates on surfaces that are in contact with water. Microorganisms are embedded in a self-produced matrix consisting of water, polysaccharides, proteins and DNA. Studies have shown that pathogenic bacteria can accumulate in aquatic biofilms. However, the interaction between viruses and biofilms is only poorly investigated, although viruses are relevant in water hygiene. The aim of the project “Viruses in biofilms” is to study the incorporation, persistence and release of enteric viruses and coliphages in and from aquatic biofilms. After developing suitable detection methods, the interaction of viruses with biofilms is investigated with respect to physicochemical and biological parameters that influence the interaction. These parameters include temperature, pH, presence of salts or other microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, amoeba). Within the project, field experiments are performed in order to detect viruses in natural surface water biofilms. On the other hand, experiments are carried out to assess the interaction of viruses with lab-grown drinking water biofilms. Detection methods include molecular biological methods (qPCR), microscopic techniques (e.g. CLSM) and cell culture based assays. The project is carried out by the department for aquatic microbiology in the biofilm centre at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the department for hygiene, social- and environmental medicine at the Ruhr-University of Bochum. Thus, experience in biofilm research and virology is combined.


  • PhD student: Martin Mackowiak
  • Supervisor: Dr. Jost Wingender (UDE, Chemistry)
  • Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Rainer Meckenstock (UDE, Chemistry)
  • Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michel Wilhelm (RUB, Medicine)
  • Mentor: Dr. Christoph Donner (Harzwasserwerke GmbH)