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npj Biofilms and Microbiomes is celebrating five years of publishing the most important scientific advances on microbial biofilms and microbiomes, from cell-to-cell communication and single-cell interaction with the environment, all the way to the human, animal and plant microbiomes, as well as the microbiomes of the natural and built environments. In honor of the occasion, we have selected a collection of top articles that span the spectrum of published work over the past five years. We hope you enjoy reading them.
Drugs that inhibit fungal biofilm and filament formation could offer a new strategy for treating fungal infections. Seeking new drugs that might inhibit Candida albicans biofilm formation—one of the most problematic aspects of infection by this fungus—Jose Lopez-Ribot and co-workers at the University of Texas at San Antonio, USA screened 20,000 compounds in a commercial library of medically relevant small molecules. They identified a series of diazaspiro-decane analogs that displayed a significant ability to inhibit biofilm formation in C. albicans cultures, and no evidence of resistance emerged during repeated exposure to the chemicals. This finding not only represents a promising lead for the development of new antifungal drugs, but also lends credence to a new “anti-virulence” approach to treating fungal infections, which is expected to minimize the emergence of resistant fungal strains.
A synthetic peptide based on a natural molecule found in the Komodo dragon promotes healing of biofilm-infected wounds. Peptides are small protein-like molecules. Monique van Hoek, Barney Bishop and colleagues at George Mason University in Virginia, USA, isolated a natural peptide with some antimicrobial properties from Komodo dragon plasma. They designed a modified synthetic version with rearranged amino acids, named DRGN-1 in recognition of the “Komodo dragon” peptide that inspired it. In preliminary trials, DRGN-1 enhanced the healing of biofilm-infected wounds in mice, and was more effective than the natural peptide. This may be due to both bacterial- and host-directed effects. DRGN-1 reduced biofilm and bacterial number while increasing wound closure. The authors suggest DRGN-1 could be developed into a therapeutic agent that may treat the biofilm-infected wounds that are increasingly resistant to conventional antibiotics.
Differences in the microbial populations in the gut may help predict the likelihood of adverse reactions to a drug used to treat bowel cancer. Libusha Kelly, Leah Guthrie, and colleagues at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York examined the undesirable reactivation of the chemotherapy drug irinotecan by microbial enzymes in the gut. They identified an association between specific forms of microbial metabolic activity and drug metabolism. Sampling the microbial population of a patient’s gut may therefore offer a relatively non-invasive way to identify biomarkers predicting the likelihood of adverse reactions due to microbial metabolism. The research also suggests that using drugs to inhibit the activity of specific microbial enzymes in the gut might improve the outcome of some treatments. Modifying the microbial population prior to treatment may be another option.
Many studies have found a link between gut microbes and bowel cancer, the third most common cancer worldwide. The details of the association, however, have remained elusive. Researchers in the USA and Malaysia, led by Dr. Cynthia Sears at John Hopkins School of Medicine in Maryland, examined mucosal biofilm status by fluorescence microscopy and performed a meta-analysis of bacterial genetic associations in stool and colon tissues to clarify the connection. They found that bowel cancers were enriched in invasive bacterial biofilms as well as several specific gut and oral species, including one - Fusobacterium nucleatum - known to promote tumorigenesis in mouse models. Analyzing gut microbial populations might help assess bowel cancer risk. Further research is needed, however, to determine if these bacteria directly contribute to disease causality.