Biofilm cluster, UC Berkeley

Biofilm cluster, UC Berkeley

University of California, Berkeley researchers hope to attack something called biofilms, which house bacterial infections protecting them from antibiotics.

New research using a super-resolution light microscopy,  reveals how bacteria forms communities and a protective coat called a biofilm. Researchers say the tenacious bacteria and its coating causes lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients, chronic sinusitis, cholera and infections around medical implants such as pacemakers, joints and stents.

Many patients with mesh implants also have constant chronic infections around the implant.

Published in the July 13th edition of the journal Science, UC Berkeley’s Department of Physics and the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences researchers observed within six hours a single bacterium that created a cluster. The bacterium then secretes a glue-like protein that creates a protective shell.

The sensitive microscope could differentiate between the different color dyes applied strategically to observe the different stages of biofilm development, creating a 3-D movie.

One way to rid biofilm and its immune response in the sinuses is to surgically remove the tissue. When there is a sticky plaque of biofilm housing infection around an implant, the way to address the infection is to remove the device and replace it with a sterilized implant.

“Eventually we want to make these bugs homeless,” said one researcher in a news release here.

About 80 percent of human infections are related to biofilms. Researchers hope to be able to target the glue-like protein to dissolve the bacteria’s housing so antibiotics have access.

Learn More:

Molecular Architecture and Assembly Principles of Vibrio cholerae Biofilms (July 13, 2012 Science)