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Bacterial discovery may help CF patients

Microbiologists from Australian and Danish have discovered a way to prevent or disturb the formation of bacterial colonies, which they believe may bring a string of benefits from preventing lung infections in cystic fibrosis sufferers to cleaner contact lenses.// The discovery, by scientists at the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience and the Technical University of Denmark, was released Friday and is published in the journal Science.

Researchers found a DNA-destroying enzyme, called DNaseI, may break up or disrupt the formation of stubborn biofilms of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Biofilms are communities of bacteria enmeshed in a matrix of long, chain-like molecules, which includes DNA. When biofilms form in the human body, as they frequently do in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis, they are particularly resistant to antibiotics and the body's own immune response.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease characterized by the build up of thick sticky mucus in the lungs and pancreas, leading to breathing difficulties and nutritional problems.Co-author of the paper, Professor John Mattick, said infection by this bacteria resulted in inflammation and tissue damage in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.

"During lung infection, Pseudomonas aeruginosa creates a biofilm, a soup rich in proteins, complex sugars and DNA. This biofilm plays a vital role in establishing bacterial colonies that are also resistant to antibiotics and the host's immune response," Mattick said.

Scientists have known for a while the biofilm of this pathogen has a high DNA content but they thought the DNA in the matrix was not an important part of the biofilm structure. The new research found the majority of the matrix material in the biofilm consists of DNA, and that it seems to be released by the living bacteria.

The researchers found treating the biofilm with the DNaseI enzyme, which breaks down DNA into
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