Scientists identify mechanism responsible for spreading biofilm infections

Dec 06, 2010

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health have discovered how catheter-related bacterial infection develops and disseminates to become a potentially life-threatening condition. The study, which included research on Staphylococcus epidermidis in mice implanted with catheters, could have important implications for understanding many types of bacterial biofilm infections, including those caused by methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA).

Biofilms are clusters of that almost always are found with healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) involving medical devices such as catheters, pacemakers and prosthetics. Most often biofilms that develop on such devices consist of Staph bacteria. Because biofilms inherently resist antibiotics and immune defenses, treating patients with biofilm-associated infections can be difficult and expensive. An estimated two million HAIs, most of which are associated with biofilms, occur in the United States annually, accounting for about 100,000 deaths.

Although biofilm-related infections result in significant numbers of deaths, scientists still have a limited understanding of how biofilms develop at a molecular level. But now scientists from NIH's National Institute of Allergy and (NIAID) have identified a specific S. epidermidis protein, called phenol-soluble modulin beta (PSM-beta), that biofilms use for multiple purposes: to grow, to detach from an implanted medical device, and to disseminate infection. Antibodies against PSM-beta slowed bacterial spread within the study mice, suggesting that interfering with biofilm development could provide a way to stop the spread of biofilm-associated infection.

Similar proteins also are found in S. aureus, and the research group now plans to study their role in biofilms of MRSA and other bacteria.

Explore further: Cell division, minus the cells

More information: R Wang et al. Staphylococcus epidermidis surfactant peptides promote biofilm maturation and dissemination of biofilm-associated infection in mice. The Journal of Clinical Investigation 121(1): DOI:10.1172/JCI42520 (2011).

Provided by National Institutes of Health

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genes that make bacteria make up their minds

Mar 30, 2009

Bacteria are single cell organisms with no nervous system or brain. So how do individual bacterial cells living as part of a complex community called a biofilm "decide" between different physiological processes (such as movement ...

Turning on cell-cell communication wipes out staph biofilms

Apr 30, 2008

University of Iowa researchers have succeeded in wiping out established biofilms of Staphylococcus aureus (staph) by hijacking one of the bacteria's own regulatory systems. Although the discovery is not ready for clinical ...

Fighting fungal infections with bacteria

May 01, 2010

A bacterial pathogen can communicate with yeast to block the development of drug-resistant yeast infections, say Irish scientists writing in the May issue of Microbiology. The research could be a step toward ...

Bacteria's sticky glue is clue to vaccine says scientist

Sep 09, 2008

Sticky glue secreted by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus could be the clue scientists have been searching for to make an effective vaccine against MRSA, medical researchers heard today at the Society for General Microbiology's ...

Recommended for you

Cell division, minus the cells

52 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —The process of cell division is central to life. The last stage, when two daughter cells split from each other, has fascinated scientists since the dawn of cell biology in the Victorian era. ...

A new method simplifies the analysis of RNA structure

1 hour ago

To understand the function of an RNA molecule, similar to the better-known DNA and vital for cell metabolism, we need to know its three-dimensional structure. Unfortunately, establishing the shape of an RNA ...

User comments : 0

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.