First evidence that bacteria get 'touchy-feely' about dangerous biofilms

May 19, 2008
First evidence that bacteria get 'touchy-feely' about dangerous biofilms
New insights on the formation of biofilms could play a role in diminishing antibiotic resistant infections while enhancing the safety of implant materials. Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

Researchers in Massachusetts report for the first time that bacteria use a sense of touch in deciding where to form biofilms. Those colonies of microbes grow on medical implants and other devices and play a key role in the multi-billion-dollar-per-year problem of antibiotic resistant infections.

The finding could lead to safer implant materials for fighting biofilms, which are linked to thousands of deaths each year, the scientists say. It also can be used to develop materials capable of sustaining cultures of important, beneficial bacteria. Their study is scheduled for the June 9 issue of ACS’ Biomacromolecules.

In the new report, Krystyn J. Van Vliet and colleagues note that past research focused on killing microbes that already have formed biofilms, or impregnating surfaces with antimicrobial compounds. Scientists knew about certain surface conditions that affected biofilm formation, though many results were in conflict, and the effect of mechanical stiffness of those surfaces had not been considered previously.

The researchers studied the effects of different polymer materials on the adhesion of Staphylococcus epidermidis, the most common bacterial source of hospital-based infections, and on E. coli. In laboratory tests, they found that the bacteria adhered preferentially to the stiffer polymers, as compared to other polymers.

Altering the stiffness of the polymers used in implants could lead to “smarter” materials for fighting or sustaining biofilm formation, they conclude.

Source: ACS

Explore further: MIT group explores bacteria use for comfort wear

Related Stories

Antimicrobial film for future implants

September 23, 2015

The implantation of medical devices is not without risks. Bacterial or fungal infections can occur and the body's strong immune response may lead to the rejection of the implant. Researchers at Unit 1121 "Biomaterials and ...

Gel study uncovers unexpected dynamics

September 24, 2015

Research by scientists at the University of York has revealed important new information about the dynamics of bacterial gels which could ultimately suggest new ways of helping prevent or better control diseases such as cystic ...

Food bug forensic tracking

January 14, 2013

Detective-style high-tech methods are being used in meat factories to trace harmful microbial contaminants.

Recommended for you

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...

Four pre-Inca tombs found in Peru's Lima

November 27, 2015

Archaeologists in Peru have found four tombs that are more than 1,000 years old in a pyramid-shaped cemetery that now sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Lima, experts said.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.