SYNLAB develop NGS technique for in-depth investigation of Biofilms – The most robust and cost-effective method for Biofilm Critical Path Analysis


  • No culturing prior to analysis.
  • Quickly adaptable to any matrix
  • Cost effective root cause analysis
  • Rapid turnaround times (3-4 days for a full screen)
  • Scalable to customers need
  • Constantly evolving analytic platforms for review of historical data.



Biofilms form  through the association of multiple bacterial species embedded in extracellular matrices,  which grow ecosystems with very effective protection barriers. The development within biofilm provides numerous ecological advantages, notably an increased capability to attach to surfaces, reduced susceptibility to mechanical abrasion and an enhanced resistance to disinfectants like quaternary ammonium compound and other biocides. Once established, these communities can have critical negative impact on structural equipment by inducing corrosion, adversely effecting product organoleptic taint and odour or degradation via enzymatic secretions.

However, a more significant concern when biofilms form in food production environments  comes from human pathogens that can develop within this protected environment and can  represent a substantial health risk by concealing dangerous bacteria. This is especially critical where biofilms colonise on stainless steel or glass surfaces within process equipment or plant, which is generally inaccessible or difficult to clean.

The complexity of these communities gives them with an incredible plasticity and adaptability to rapidly changing conditions such as  temperature variations or cleaning regimes: different populations will grow or become sub-clonal, with the ability to change their genetic and metabolic pathways. This makes the control or eradication of biofilms a very significant, and ever developing, challenge.

The detection and eradication of biofilm from food production,  chemical plants or medical equipment has necessitated the drive to develop methods to understand the composition and complexity of these biofilms in much greater detail.


Conventional Biofilm Characterisation

Traditional approaches to characterise the microflora in biofilm were based on culturing and agar plating. The main obstacles with these methods are as simple as missing fastidious organisms, viable but not culturable in laboratories environment (VBNC) like Listeria and Salmonella exposed to chlorine (1),  to many groups of specific interest like biocide resistant sub-clones or adapted psychrophilic bacteria (cold environment).

Because VBNC cells can be detected by using methodologies like PCR, an important role was given to the development of newer molecular technologies like SSU rRNA (16S)  cloning libraries and Q-PCR which opened another window on this micro-world.

Despite efficiently circumventing some issues, long turnaround time and high costs in conjunction with biases and limitations of delivering analysis using far from perfect “universal” primers, accentuate further the need for innovative solutions to understand what forms biofilms and their complex biological properties.

The SYNLAB approach

The SYNLAB approach to the precise identification of complex biofilm communities uses Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) as a highly efficient and cost-effective technique to deliver a depth of information so far almost inaccessible. The power of NGS resides in its ability to generate a massive amount of genetic information in a relatively simple and rapid manner, especially when combined with the most prevalently used marker to study microbiological communities (SSU rRNA).

The analysis involves extensive parallel sequencing, where information is gathered from several sets of primers, targeting hypervariable regions and taking data from several sources simultaneously.

The multiplicity of targets used in a single run, overlapping and complementing large amount of information, opens the possibility to investigate not only the VBNC, but also micro-populations which have so far been impossible to reach and analyse without a prior knowledge of their existence.

Another valuable feature of the SYNLAB approach is the scalability of the technology, versatile enough for type species in a probiotic mix of known organisms to perform a most detailed survey of complex sewage sludge containing numerous diverse super-adapted bacterial genus, virtually unculturable in isolation.


Biofilms represent a major risk for the food industry, not only from an economic point of view but also as food safety issues:

The implications on the commercial aspect (degradation of equipment and impact on the product organoleptic and integrity) are only part of the problem with increased concerns for the public health due to possible pathogens hidden in theses biofilms.

Whilst there are many new and traditional methods to tackle the elimination of biofilms, the precise determination of their make-up can be crucial in delivering the most accurate and cost-effective root cause analysis to ensure long-term eradication.  This can especially be the case in complex CIP systems, which can be subject to re-occurring issues, or in testing the efficacy of open plant hygiene cleaning regimes.


This unique SYNLAB solution is a natural progression, evolved from many years as leaders in investigative microbiology using Sanger sequencing. Major advantages of the NGS platform are versatility and scalability. SYNLAB UK are currently using the platform in an array of applications covering accredited meat speciation, typing of probiotic mixes of known organisms to the detailed survey of complex sewage sludge containing diverse super-adapted bacterial genus.

SYNLAB generate new solutions through challenge test expertise

SYNLAB technical expertise provides tailored microbial investigations for the food industry.

SYNLAB Food Testing UK have developed a reputation as the ‘go to’ experts of choice for microbiological investigative testing with many leading food manufacturers and retailers. In developing this market leading position SYNLAB have accrued a significant amount of expertise and knowledge in the development and implementation of challenge testing across the food, beverage and dairy sectors.

Challenge tests involve the careful inoculation of a product with a specific microorganism to monitor the ability of the product to support the growth of the contaminant during its life from production, distribution, storage and handling and assess how that may compromise the product.

The scope of a challenge tests can be wide ranging. From finding the growth potential of Listeria monocytogenes in ready to eat foods to fully bespoke projects developed with customer technical teams to assess, for example, the efficacy of disinfectants or preservatives.

All challenge tests are carefully managed and developed with discussions between the client and SYNLAB. They are particularly well matched to SYNLAB core capability as there is a significant requirement for technical expertise in order to interpret results and offer meaningful advice and a high level of support during the life of the test.

If you wish to discuss challenge tests or any other microbiological testing requirement please contact us at

New state-of-the-art Molecular Biology Laboratory in Hebden Bridge

SYNLAB Food Testing UK are pleased to announce the opening of our new state-of-the-art Molecular Biology Laboratory in Hebden Bridge.

Situated in the Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, it is centrally located 8 miles west of Halifax and 14 miles north-east of Rochdale.  The new purpose-built, 4000 ft2  Laboratory is a PCR and ELISA lab designed specifically for allergen and authenticity testing.

Our nationwide sample collection network can collect from anywhere in the country and deliver samples back to the laboratory on the same day.  The laboratory itself offers a standard 2-day turnaround on ELISA tests , 3 days for PCR, and can also accommodate emergency or same day testing as required.

SYNLAB Hebden Bridge also specialises in GMO and authenticity testing, reinforced by our PhD level industry experts who can assist you with result interpretation, guidance on your customer requirements, and much more.

We have been a trusted industry service provider for over 10 years with a reputation for excellent customer service and industry leading investigative testing methods.

If you would like to find out more or speak to our team then please contact

UKAS Accredited Gluten Testing in Beer

With the increasing demand in Gluten-free beer, SYNLAB are on hand to assist small and large breweries in meeting their free-from gluten claim. Our dedicated team offer the recommended method for gluten analysis in beer and we were the first laboratory to gain UKAS accreditation for this method. Our method is unique as it can quantify peptide fragments from wheat, rye and barley. SYNLAB can also help you meet short deadlines by offering same day emergency analysis, with our standard turnaround time being 2 days.

For more details, please email