Biofilms and antibiotic-resistant lung infections

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Canadian scientists have found a possible way in which they can break through the defense of antibiotic-resistant respiratory infections. There are hopes that the findings will soon benefit people affected with cystic fibrosis and even other chronic lung diseases if they are at high risk of infections.

The noted research is about slimy coatings that can be used by bacteria and fungi as protection. It is interesting to know that biofilms can be harmless but they can be a reason because of which hospital-acquired infections can create complications. Microbes form biofilms on various surfaces including the inside of human’s lungs, artificial hips, and heart valves. Interestingly, implanted medical devices can account for even 70 per cent of these hospital-related infections, as noted in previous research.

Doctors and scientists note that biofilms are a tough nut to crack because fungi and bacteria secrete a matrix of sugar molecules that form the biofilm armor. This helps in building a physical and chemical barrier with the intention to keep antibiotics and immune cells that can possibly kill the pathogens. These bacteria and fungi even build a biofilm matrix to defend their communities.

With the test tube experiments, the researcher’s task isn’t as easy as finding modular homes. This is because it has been discovered that the microbes tend to use enzyme "saws" in order to cut the walls. After this, it helps in building the walls of their biofilm homes. It helps in turning the defense of microbes against itself and uses its machinery to work on the enzymes and control the sections where the cuts were made. Here, the biofilms are cut into equivalent 10-foot-long pieces instead of small wooden boards that are uniform in sizes. Because of this, the microbes were not in a position to use the unwieldy pieces with the intention to repair the gaping holes that are inflicted on the biofilms walls by scientists.

Dr. Don Sheppard along with Prof. Lynne Howell have worked on the project, and Sheppard said that they have made uncontrolled versions and destroy the biofilm. He further added that the enzymes work in an animal model and was a lung infection model that has Aspergillus fungus in mice. The research has been in progress for more than ten years to prove that it was actually the enzymes at work. 

Laura Corder

Biotechnologist, LMG Solutions