In a new study published in PLoS Biology, biologist David Soll and colleagues from the University of Iowa have highlighted new information on the character of biofilms that often appear around medical devices. Complex communities of microorganisms grow and thrive in objects such as artificial hip joints, dentures, catheters, and other man made devices placed inside the body as they provide a platform for a potential breeding ground.
Both the human immune system and treatment with antibiotics and other medication have been found to be ineffective in combating these pathogens because many of these organisms have proved to be resistant. In effect, a pathogenic biofilm is produced by around 90% of pathogens that colonize the human body making it impossible for white blood cells, antibodies, and even anti fungal agents to cross over.
Previous research rationalized and demonstrated that a certain pathogen forms its own associated biofilm. However, the fungal pathogen Candida albicans has been found to create 2 kinds of biofilms, as discovered by Soll and colleagues.
Despite the similarity between the two biofilms of Candida albicans, Soll has demonstrated that around 10% of the colony that makes up one layer consists of sexually active organisms that form a supportive layer for mating.
Although the sexually active layer is permeable and more vulnerable to eradication, most of the colonizing cells form a biofilm that is resistant to any kind of attack, cannot be penetrated, and is not actively reproducing.
Soll said: “Having two outwardly similar, but functionally different, biofilms provides us with one means of finding out what makes the pathogenic biofilm resistant to all challenges, and the sexual biofilm non-resistant. Whatever that difference is will represent a major target for future drug discovery.”
Soll and colleagues hypothesize that a study of the differences between the sexual “mating” layer and the impermeable asexual “resistant” layer will provide them with an opportunity to focus for future research. This will lead to the development of new drugs that can aid the removal of biofilms formed on medical devices inserted in the body for long periods.