A research team from Trinity College Dublin has recently discovered a way to reduce the incidence of medical device-associated infection resulting from biofilms. The term “biofilms” refers to organized colonies of bacteria that can adhere to any natural or manmade surface. MedicalNewsToday explains that the accumulation of bacteria into biofilms on medical devices is a common problem that arises after medical devices are implanted in the human body. Infections caused by biofilms are particularly difficult to treat because they are strongly resistant to antibiotics and immune attack, which means that the development of biofilms often requires healthcare professionals to remove and replace the implanted device. According to a press release from Trinity College Dublin, each incident of biofilm infection costs the healthcare system €50,000 – €90,000.
The research team from Trinity College Dublin, in collaboration with atomic force microscopy expert Professor Yves Dufrêne and his team at the Université Catholique de Louvain, discovered a way to disrupt the activity of a protein that plays a key role in biofilm formation using a small blocking molecule. The researchers identified a protein, called SdrC, which contributes to biofilm formation by promoting adhesion between bacterial cells and attachment of the cells to surfaces. Using a small molecule derived from β-neurexin, the researchers found that they could block the SdrC interactions between cells, thereby preventing biofilm formation.
Dr. Joan Geoghegan, who led the research term at Trinity College Dublin, stated in the press release:
These new findings show that it is possible to stop bacteria from building communities using molecules that specifically target proteins attached to the surface of the bacteria. This exciting breakthrough will inform the design of new, targeted approaches to prevent biofilm formation by staphylococci and reduce the incidence of medical device-related infection.
The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.