Sep 26, 2019
What are biofilms?
A biofilm is a structured consortium of bacteria embedded in a self-produced polymer matrix consisting of polysaccharide, protein and DNA.
Put more simply, according to Live Science (Aparna Vidyasagar December 22, 2016), biofilms are a collective of one or more types of microorganisms that can grow on many different surfaces. Microorganisms that form biofilms include bacteria, fungi and protists.
In fact biofilms have established themselves for a very long time. Fossil evidence of biofilms dates to about 3.25 billion years ago, according to a 2004 article (https://www.nature.com/articles/nrmicro821) published in the journal Nature Reviews Microbiology.
Bacterial biofilms and us
Biofilms can be encountered in a vast range of environments so it is no surprise that they affect many aspects of human life.
While the importance of biofilm in implanted devices such as prosthetic heart valve and catheter-related infections has been known since the 1980s, the role of mucosal biofilm in human disease pathogenesis has only recently been elucidated.
Bacteria are vital for survival, and they have been used to develop effective medical treatments. However, when they form communities, they can wreak serious havoc and pose a threat to our health.
Bacterial biofilms cause chronic infections because they show increased resistance to antibiotics and disinfectant chemicals as well as resisting phagocytosis and other components of the body’s defence system. (1)
“The reason that biofilm formation is a great cause of concern is that, within a biofilm, bacteria are more resistant to antibiotics and other major disinfectants that you could use to control them,” said A.C. Matin, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University.
Battling biofilms: new developments
Forming communities and living together in such close proximity allows bacteria to share resources more successfully than when they are in their free-living state. They communicate with each other but also with their host. Crucially, it allows them to avoid conventional methods of eradication.
The protective mechanisms at work in biofilms appear to be different from those that are responsible for conventional antibiotic resistance. In biofilms, poor antibiotic penetration, nutrient limitation and slow growth, adaptive stress responses, and formation of persistent cells are hypothesized to constitute a multi-layered defense. (2)
Many believe that the path to treatment lies in prevention. Advances in technology have allowed researchers to develop new materials actively designed to stop bacteria from attaching and forming biofilms in the first place.
Rational antibiotic management is also crucial. Acute respiratory infections in particular are responsible for the largest number of antibiotic prescriptions where bacterial lysates interesting solutions to manage rational antibiotic usage. (3)
The genetic and biochemical details of these biofilm defenses are only now beginning to emerge. Lallemand Pharma is aiming their Research and Development program to prevent the pathogenic biofilm formation thanks to natural extract issued from unique Lallemand bacterial strain collection.
(1) Høiby N, Bjarnsholt T, Givskov M, Molin S, Ciofu O (2010) Antibiotic resistance of bacterial biofilms. International journal of Antimicrobial Agents : vol35, issue 4: 322-332 [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2009.12.011]
(2) Stewart, Philip. (2002). Mechanisms of antibiotic resistance in bacterial biofilm. International journal of medical microbiology: IJMM. 292. 107-13. 10.1078/1438-4221-00196.
(3) Di Perri G, Ferlazzo G (2019) Mucosal immunity in airway infections. Supplement to Clinical Perspectives in Respiratory Medicine: No. 5