Researchers Make Significant Progress in the Study of Biofilm Formation

By Sanjana Puri

Biofilms present a formidable threat to the treatment of bacterial infections. These structures, which form when bacterial cells coalesce and bind together via a glue-like substance, are surrounded in a semi-protective layer which makes them extremely difficult to permeate. This is an especially potent issue in American hospitals, where contaminated sutures or catheters can lead to the development of fatal infections in admitted patients. Yale University researcher Andre Levchenko along with his colleagues from the University of California-San Diego sought to examine the most confounding issue in the study of biofilms - by what process bacteria shed their individual identities to operate in a collective structure. They simulated the environment of human cells known to host uropathogenic E. coli (cause of urinary tract infections), using microfluidic devices and gels. They observed that the primary trigger was a kind of “self-generated stress,” where the bacterial colonies would grow until compressed by the chamber walls, fibers or the gel. Once this unimpeded growth was inhibited by the bacteria’s containment, they would form a structure very similar to biofilm, most notably with an increased resistance to antibiotics. The technology used to examine the biofilm formation can be adapted to a wide variety of conditions, allowing for it to be studied in a collection of cellular conditions. Additionally, according to Levchenko, the research can be done rapidly and precisely in an inexpensive and easily reproducible way. The testing of drugs that could fracture the protective biofilm layer would not only be made in more predictable conditions, but also in more accessible ones.

Yale University. (2018, October 5). How fatal biofilms form. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 8, 2018 from