United They Stand

By Gary Hodgins

This is the first part of a 2 part blog. This section goes over the leading reason for hospital-acquired infections. The next section of this blog, “Divide We Conquer” will go over ways to solve this issue.

Many leading experts in infection control are confounded by the rapid increase in hospital-acquired infections.  Recent evidence suggests that as many as 85% of all hospital-acquired infections somehow relate to the presence of a biofilm.

Testing antimicrobials to determine their effectiveness (the first line of defense against hospital-acquired infections) is based entirely on a single organism in its planktonic (free-swimming) state.  These same organisms in a biofilm state are 10 to 1000 times more resistant to these same antimicrobials.

Clearly, if we have any hope of reducing hospital-acquired infections, we must discover how to prevent or destroy these bacterial biofilms.  The challenge lies in the structure of a biofilm itself and how it shields and protects not only bacteria, which cause its formation, but also other harmful organisms, such as viruses, fungi, etc., that view the biofilm as a kind of condominium habitat available to all.

Our image of bacteria is isolated cells swimming around in an aqueous milieu.  Not only is this misleading, but, in the case of infectious diseases, it is dangerous.  In nature, the majority of organisms live together in large numbers attached to a surface.  Rather than lonely hermits in their planktonic form, most bacteria spend much of their lives in the microbial equivalent of a gated community – a biofilm.  The residents of the biofilm may be a single species or a very diverse group of microorganisms distributed into various neighbourhoods.  Their common bond is a slimy matrix made of polysaccharides, DNA, and proteins, which, together, form an extracellular polymeric substance that envelopes and protects the residents from outside invaders such as antimicrobials and antibiotics.

Gary Hodgins’ company, Pharmax Limited, is a pharmaceutical manufacturer specializing in applications related to infection prevention and control in healthcare settings.

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