This week in Biofilms and Microbiomes: Monday November 7, 2016

A round-up of what we read last week in the media's coverage of biofilms and microbiomes research.

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Polysorbate, a safe and common additive found in some pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and food like icecream, can impede the toxic effects of E.coli poisoning. The research, published in the current issue of the journal Biofouling, shows that polysorbates attack the protective biofilm in which E. coli live and renders the deadly bacteria harmless. The investigators from Michigan State University were particularly interested in the strain O104:H4 that recently caused the deadliest E.coli outbreak in Germany and killed at least 50 people. After scouring scientific literature to identify anti-biofilm compounds, study’s senior author, Chris Waters and colleagues, tested polysorbate 80 which destroyed E. coli's ability to form biofilms in the lab. The next step was to verify the compound’s efficacy in animal model. PS 80 was administered to infected mice in their drinking water. Surprisingly, it did not significantly impact the numbers of infecting E.coli, though, later pathology reports confirmed almost no intestinal inflammation or tissue damage in these mice, thus suggesting an effective anti-virulance strategy until the bacteria develops resistance to the treatment. As PS20 and PS80 are classified as ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ (GRAS) compounds by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these compounds have clinical potential to treat future O104:H4 outbreaks. The paper was picked up by more than 10 news outlets, including Science Daily, Medical Xpress and Drug Discovery and Development.

A good research is underway on the development of novel surface coatings that can prevent biofilm formation and minimize infections linked to medical implants and hospitalization. A couple of week’s ago, we had highlighted a nanofiber based coating developed by researchers from The Johns Hopkins University. This week, we have picked a new report published in the journal Biomaterials. Researchers from the Harvard University have developed innovative, self-healing slippery surface coatings with medical-grade teflon materials and liquids that prevent biofilm formation on medical implants while preserving normal innate immune responses against pathogenic bacteria. The technology based on the concept of an immobilized liquid surface, termed slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces (SLIPS), represents a new framework for creating a stable, dynamic, omniphobic surface that displays ultralow adhesion and limits bacterial biofilm formation. The researchers tested different medical-grade materials that would best work with a selection of lubricants to make a long-lasting coating to repel a common strain of bacteria that infects medical implants. A widely used biomaterial in clinical care, expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE), infused with various perfluorocarbon liquids generated SLIPS surfaces that exhibited a 99% reduction in S. aureus adhesion with preservation of macrophage viability, phagocytosis, and bactericidal function. Study’s senior co-author, Joanna Aizenberg, a Harvard professor of chemistry and chemical biology, says they are applying the concept of SLIPS to medical applications by fine-tuning the chemical and physical features of medical-grade materials and the infused lubricants. SLIPS is an easily implementable technology that provides a promising approach to substantially reduce the risk of device infection and associated patient morbidity, as well as health care costs. The research got a nice coverage by more than 15 news outlets, including Newswise, Nanowerk, and Science Daily.

We’d love to hear what you’ve been reading this week. Please comment below.

Richa Dandona

Partnerships and Operations Manager, Nature Partner Journals, Nature Research