This becomes particularly dramatic for endocarditis patients, as was outlined at the workshop by Annette Moter from the Charite in Berlin, said Battin. Endocarditis is a rare but serious disease in which one of the four heart valves, the heart lining, or heart muscle, are infected by a bacterial biofilm, often comprising streptococci, and become inflamed. As the biofilms are resistant to antibiotics and the immune systems white blood cells, very often the only remedy is surgery, to replace a damaged valve, which can itself cause problems. The hope is that greater understanding will yield new drugs that reach the infected heart valve and break up the biofilm.
As Battin pointed out, biofilms can pose a big problem in large-scale water treatment plants, and yet for the very same reasons can play a positive role in the very same process, breaking down contaminants in waste and natural waters, for example. Further research will help ensure that the positive role is accentuated, while avoiding the problems.
The ESF workshop also highlighted greater understanding of the complex interactions within biofilms, which often comprise not just one species of bacteria, but a whole host of different micro-organisms, including archaea, protozoa, fungi, and even tiny metazoa actually comprising multiple cells. Many biofilms are in fact complete micro-ecosystems, within which there is competition as well as cooperation,
|Contact: Tom Battin|
European Science Foundation