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Bacteria are capable of surviving on many surfaces for extended periods of time, until conditions favor their growth. Recent research has discovered that many pathogenic bacteria are capable of forming resilient “biofilm” colonies that are difficult to eradicate and even more difficult to treat, especially when established within a patient. Many chemical approaches have been applied to preventing biofilm formation and surface fouling, especially in invasive devices such as catheters. However, these devices carry the drawback of loss of function over time (as a result of the depletion of antimicrobial elements from the surface). Furthermore, because the compounds that leach from the surface of chemical-based antimicrobials surfaces may be toxic not only to microbes but also human tissue, their safety in vivo is unknown.

We seek to investigate an alternative approach by seeding surfaces with a non-pathogenic, biofilm forming bacterium that would secrete antimicrobial peptides (AMP) that would inhibit subsequent colonization of the surface by pathogenic microbes. The advantages of this approach over traditional chemical treatments is that the surface would be capable of replenishing AMP levels, preventing loss of function over time. For our project we chose to utilize lysostaphin (lss), an enzyme that is capable of destroying the cell wall of Stapylococcus, a genus of bacteria that are responsible for a large proportion of hospital acquired infections, as well as capable of forming biofilms.

This experiment is not without precedent. This concept was utilized in 1999 to produce a protective biofilm on steel to inhibit the growth of sulfate-reducing bacteria that would have otherwise corroded the steel. The results indicated that the protective biofilm that produced AMPs (Gramicidin S) delayed the onset of corrosion and inhibited the activity of sulfate reducing bacteria for up to 28 days when immersed in growth media, and up to 120 hours in continuously replaced media (i.e. a surface placed in a continuous flow of media).