Biofilms are microbial communities embedded in a self-produced extracellular polymeric matrix. It is now well recognized that cells undergo profound changes in the transition from free-living to matrix-embedded (biofilm) communities. An important characteristic of microbial biofilms is their innate resistance to immune system- and antibiotic-killing. This has made microbial biofilms a common and difficult-to-treat cause of medical infections. Several chronic infections have been shown to be mediated by biofilms such as the respiratory infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the cystic fibrosis (CF) lung and Staphylococcal lesions in endocarditis. Biofilms are also a major cause of infections associated with medical implants mainly by Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus, and P. aeruginosa. It has been estimated that 65% of the bacterial infections treated in hospitals are caused by bacterial biofilms. Thus, there is an urgent need to discover innovative treatments for biofilm-associated infections. The current understanding of how biofilms develop and how they acquire increased resistance is still in its initial stages. Our research focuses on understanding the basic aspects of the signals and processes involved in biofilm development with a goal of finding new methods of treating biofilm-related infections. The aims are:
1) To characterize how biofilms develop, with a focus on the role of iron as a signal in biofilm development.
2) To understand the mechanisms by which biofilms obtain increased resistance to antimicrobial therapy.
3) To understand the role of inter- and intra-species cell-cell communication in mixed species biofilm interactions.
4) To discover novel compounds that effectively eradicate biofilms.
We implement an array of physiological, biochemical, and genetic tools combined with novel technologies that allow controlled and reproducible biofilm growth to characterize bacterial biofilms and compare them to the non-biofilm communities.