Web Zap*Germs Archive

March 18, 2005

Research Underway to Disrupt Bacterial Communication in Biofilm "Mobs"

A team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, headed by chemistry professor Helen Blackwell, is working to design new chemical compounds that mimic acylated homoserine lactones (AHLs), a natural molecule that is used by more than 50 species of bacteria to communicate.

The goal is to cause the breakdown of communication among bacteria organized in harmful biofilms. Biofilm-organized bacteria behave like a "super-organism" through communication involving the transfer of small molecules and peptides.

In the realm of health, biofilms are at the root of growing numbers of tenacious, and sometimes fatal, hospital infections, says Blackwell. Indeed, a U.S. National Institutes of Health study last year reported that almost 80 percent of bacterial infections are in the biofilm forma.

Using new combinatorial chemistry techniques, Blackwell and her team are screening through hundreds of molecules at a time. The researchers have so far unveiled three promising organic compounds that seemingly quell bacterial signaling.


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