New way in which dangerous infections can be prevented: Biofilm Discovery

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It is known that microbial biofilms that are dense and sticky mats of bacteria are hard to treat. It can also lead to a number of dangerous infections that can arise from medical equipment. If we go by some related estimates, it will not be difficult for us to know that more than a million people have contracted the infection from various medical devices that are used in U.S. hospitals every year. Out of them, most of them are caused due to biofilms. 

Recently, a study at The University of Texas at Austin has suggested that there is a new way in which such biofilms can be prevented from forming. If this happens, many hospital-borne infections can be avoided. Vernita Gordon, who is an assistant professor of physics and also the senior author of the paper that appeared recently in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, has detected the key mechanism which triggers biofilms to form. The task isn’t as entertaining as scuba diving, but Gordon has been working hard on it.  Next, she envisions in creating coatings specifically for medical devices and a number of other surfaces that would help in blocking the trigger. This will also help in keeping bacteria from clustering and ultimately forming intractable biofilms.

Gordon went on to say that the most important thing is to prevent biofilms before they even start. This will make the task easy to wipe out free-floating bacteria and not let it form into a biofilm.  Talking about biofilm related infections, it is important to know that there are some patients that are susceptible to such infections. In this category, there are people with cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and even diabetes that often develop into life-threatening bacterial infections which can be hard to treat, especially in large part. This is because the bacteria form biofilms and can be resistant to the human’s immune cells and even to antibiotics.

In the past, it was known that before the Pseudomonas bacteria forms into a biofilm, they sense that they are being attracted to a particular surface. However, it wasn’t clear what do these bacteria sense. With the new study, we learn that the bacteria might be sensing something called as mechanical shear. Mechanical shear is a kind of stretching that occurs when a bacterium is attached to a particular surface. 

For the research, Gordon’s co-authors are Christopher Rodesney, Brian Roman, Numa Dhamani, Benjamin Cooley, and Ahmed Touhami. The funding for the same has been provided by ExxonMobil and The University of Texas at Austin.

Emma Bonney

Manger , Kahe Inc