What Are Biofilms and Why Are They Harmful?
Bacteria are microscopic organisms that tend to stick on almost every surface. Well, most bacteria are harmless but there are some that are harmful once they get into the human body.
Antibiotics can treat the majority of bacterial illnesses, but not illnesses caused by biofilms.
WHAT IS BIOFILM?
Biofilms have existed for a very long time. According to a 2004 paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Microbiology, fossil evidence of biofilms goes back to around 3.25 billion years ago.
Biofilms are a microbial community made up of one or more microorganisms that may develop on a variety of surfaces. Bacteria, fungus, and protists are examples of microorganisms that produce biofilms.
Biofilms are formed when bacterial cells gather and build structures that bind them together in a gooey substance. This gooey substance shields cells from the environment and enables them to form complex quasi-organisms. Biofilms may be found nearly anywhere, including unclean shower cubicles and lake surfaces.
WHY ARE BIOFILMS HARMFUL?
Biofilms are particularly harmful when they infiltrate human cells or develop on sutures and catheters used in operations. It is because the protective shell can keep these effective therapies out. Thousands of deaths have been linked to biofilm-related surgical site infections and urinary tract infections in American hospitals alone.
Fighting biofilms has proven particularly challenging due to a lack of understanding of how bacteria cells shift from acting independently to forming collective structures.
However, researchers in the Levchenko lab have discovered a fundamental mechanism for biofilm development. This also gives a means to investigate this process in a controlled and repeatable manner. This research was in collaboration with colleagues at the University of California-San Diego.
Biofilms accounted for “almost 80% of microbial illnesses in the body,” according to a 2002 call for grant proposals from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
According to a 2004 study in Nature Reviews Microbiology, bacterial biofilms have been reported to induce infective endocarditis and pneumonia in cystic fibrosis patients, among other diseases.
WHAT THERAPEUTIC STRATEGIES ARE AVAILABLE TO FIGHT BIOFILMS?
First and foremost, prevention is better than cure! We can try to avoid the formation of biofilms. This is an excellent method for preventing biofilms from developing on implanted materials.
We can cover the implant’s surface with chemicals that prevent germs from adhering to it. This look can be achieved, for example, using silver coating. We can also inject large quantities of antibiotics into the implanted gadget. They are therefore prepared to combat germs before going to sleep.
We can also use a strong antibiotic solution to clean a catheter. The majority of these methods are currently in use in clinics. Alternately, we can disrupt the bacteria’s communication mechanism. It’s known as quorum sensing.
It is made up of chemicals generated by bacteria and is detected by their neighbors as if they were inhaling a sweet aroma. Bacteria can’t locate each other without quorum sensing, therefore they can’t start forming the biofilm.
Second, we have the option of attempting to destroy the matrix. This should make it easier for the antibiotic to reach the bacteria that are hiding. This can be accomplished using enzymes, which are proteins capable of converting one molecule into another, such as in degradation products. The chemicals in the matrix will be chopped into little bits by them.
The majority of these innovative methods are still in the works. It takes a lot of effort to keep them active and functioning properly. Another source of concern is the possibility that these techniques will be harmful. We are, nevertheless, progressing at a steady rate.