COLLEGE STATION June 11, 2008 Understanding the way bacterial cells "talk" to each other could lead to more effective methods for fighting the often persistent and serious infections caused by the biofilms they form, says a Texas A&M University professor of chemical engineering who not only has deciphered their language but also discovered how to quell their conversation.
Examining Escherichia coli bacteria widely considered a model organism for microbiology studies Professor Thomas K. Wood of the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M has succeeded in identifying, decoding and even modifying cell-to-cell signals so that biofilm formation is inhibited.
His findings are covered in a series of five published articles, two of which appear in The International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal a member of Nature Publishing Group's stable of scientific publications. In addition, his progress is detailed in The Public Library of Science ONE, Applied and Environmental Engineering and in BMC Microbiology.
Wood's work is important in addressing the widespread health issues resulting from bacteria in its biofilm form. Put simply, biofilm is a protective and adhesive slime excreted by bacteria that have joined together to form a community. The substance can grow on a variety of living and nonliving surfaces, including submerged rocks, food, teeth (as plaque) and biomedical implants such as knee and hip replacements.
And where there's an infection, there is usually biofilm.
The National Institutes of Health, Wood noted, estimate that about 90 percent of infections in humans are caused by biofilm. The Centers for Disease Control estimate biofilm to be present in 65 percent of hospital-acquired (nosocomial) infections. Biofilms have been linked to everything from gum diseases to cystic fibrosis. They typically are the cause for the fatal infections that develop post surgery.
|Contact: Thomas K. Wood|
Texas A&M University