Biofilms are protective layers that bacteria create to shield themselves from your immune system and to evade antibiotics. Biofilm colonies help bacteria to hide inside your body and can cause recurring Staph or MRSA infections. These protective colonies also allow bacteria to communicate with each other to become more resistant to antibiotics. Biofilms are a common problem plaguing catheters, pic lines and implanted medical devices that cause infections.
A recent discovery by IBM could help destroy biofilms and make bacteria more vulnerable to infection treatments. In a press release last month, the company revealed promising test results for a non-toxic polymer formulation that breaks down biofilms. The formulation is a hydrogel that’s basically a liquid containing a biodegradable polymer in water. This flexible hydrogel could be applied to catheters and other medical devices to keep bacteria from growing on them and causing infections.
A big reason antibiotics stop working is that these drugs have a hard time penetrating biofilms. Without breaking through these protective shells, antibiotics are much less effective at stopping an infection. Even if an antibiotic does work, the bacteria can easily become resistant and make that antibiotic useless the next time it’s used.
Most experts agree that inventing new antibiotics to keep pace with antibiotic resistance is a losing battle. Bacteria can learn to resist new antibiotics soon after they are discovered. That’s why some experts are urging for a different approach to the problem of resistance, including better prevention measures and looking beyond standard treatments.
IBM’s approach to the problem targets the bacteria’s protective biofilm rather than trying to attack the bacteria directly as antibiotics do. One benefit of this approach is that once a biofilm is weakened or broken, the bacteria inside are much more susceptible to treatment with any remedies used to fight the infection. Another benefit is the hydrogel does not attack the bacteria directly, which leads to resistance.
While the news of IBM’s discovery is promising, it will probably be a while before it becomes available to help people treat infections. Even then, the formulation will likely need to be used along with other treatments, such as antibiotics, for best results.
To your best health,
Here’s a link to IMB’s press release about their new antimicrobial hydrogel: