Harnessing electrical energy for anti-biofilm therapies: Effects of current on cell morphology and motility

Ryan Berthelot, Suresh Neethirajan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Preferentially altering bacterial migration could be a successful approach for augmenting the natural wound-healing process. Inducing electrotactic behaviours through the application of physiologically safe currents is one possible strategy for altering bacterial movement. By controlling bacterial movement at the site of infection, healing times and the severity/extent of bacterial infection could be reduced. Here, we deployed microfluidics and atomic force microscopy to determine the effect of an applied electrical current on bacterial motility and cell morphology in wound pathogens namely Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Nanoscale imaging combined with microfluidic platforms allows for the study of single-cell swimming dynamics. Current values of 0, 0.07, and 0.125 mA were applied to bacteria in suspension. E. coli exhibited an increase in directionality and a drop in mean cellular velocity across all voltages. P. aeruginosa showed a significant decrease in mean cellular velocity at 0.07 mA, while all currents increased the directionality of movement. Electrical current had no statistically significant effect on the width or length of individual bacterial cells. A better understanding of how electrical stimulation affects pathogenic bacteria at wound sites may lead to advancements in electrotherapy and help to identify new alternatives to traditional antimicrobial approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-207
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Nanoscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Bacteria
  • Biofilms
  • Electrotherapy
  • Microfluidics

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