How scientists are fighting infection-causing biofilms

phys.org | 10/16/2018 | Staff
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The surfaces people interact with every day may seem rather mundane, but at the molecular scale, there is more activity than meets the eye.

Every surface we touch has its own unique chemical properties. It's because of these properties that some materials stick to surfaces, while others slide off. For a person, a sticky surface may be a minor annoyance, but for a bacterial cell, surface attachment can be a matter of life and death. Bacteria have evolved their own surfaces to be sticky, like Velcro.

Bacteria - Surface - Community - Biofilm - Source

When bacteria colonize a surface, they create a community called a biofilm, which can be a source of infection on medical devices or implants. Growing concerns over these infections has led a number of researchers to develop materials to block these sometimes dangerous films.

As biophysical chemists, my research group and I are trying to understand the molecular forces that allow biological molecules – like those on bacteria – to attach to surfaces during the earliest phases of biofilm formation. By understanding this early attachment stage, we can reduce the risks that a biofilm will form on implanted medical devices and pose a threat to humans.

Biofilms - Communities - Bacteria - Microorganisms - Surface

Biofilms are densely packed communities of bacteria or other microorganisms living on a surface. Like a city, growing within a biofilm has certain advantages. For example, it provides structural support, like the floors of a high rise, and microbes can share nutrients. Compared to free-floating bacteria, bacteria in a biofilm are shielded, allowing them to evade our immune system and resist antibiotics.

When biofilms form on medical devices or implants, they can serve as a persistent source of hard-to-treat infections. These cost not only billions of dollars to treat, but claim thousands of lives each year in the U.S. alone.

Scientists - Form

Scientists are trying to understand how biofilms form and how to prevent them. Molecular...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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