The Therapeutic Challenge of Hacking Into Bacterial Biofilms

Christophe Bordi and Sophie de Bentzmann, of the Institut de Microbiologie de la Méditerranée in Marseille, France, report on their review of bacterial biofilm-related issues in the current issue of Annals of Intensive Care.

Microbiologists have extensively worked in the last decade on a particular phase of the bacterial cell cycle known as biofilm, in which single-celled individuals gather together to form a sedentary but dynamic community within a complex structure, displaying spatial and functional heterogeneity. In response to the perception of environmental signals by sensing systems, appropriate responses are triggered, leading to biofilm formation. This process involves various molecular systems enabling bacteria to identify appropriate surfaces on which to anchor themselves, to stick to those surfaces and to each other, to construct multicellular communities several hundreds of micrometers thick and to detach from the community. The biofilm microbial community is a unique, highly competitive and crowded environment facilitating microevolutionary processes and horizontal gene transfer between distantly related microorganisms. It is governed by social rules, based on the production and use of "public" goods, with actors and recipients. Biofilms constitute a unique shield against external aggressions, including drug treatment and immune reactions. Biofilm-associated infections in humans have therefore generated major problems for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Improvements in our understanding of biofilms have led to innovative research aiming to interfere with this process.

Reference: Bordi C and de Bentzmann S. Hacking into bacterial biofilms: a new therapeutic challenge. Annals of Intensive Care 2011, 1:19 doi:10.1186/2110-5820-1-19