Engineered enzymes that inhibit hazardous and infectious biofilms by breaking down bacterial communication molecules.

About

Bacterial biofilms are significant health challenges. It is estimated that 80% of all microbial infections and 60% of healthcare-associated infections (HAI) in humans are caused by biofilms. Because of the pervasive nature of bacteria, biofilms are incredibly common and can form on substrates, ranging from structural materials to living tissue. As sources of contamination, infection and biocorrosion, biofilms cause of an astounding array of problems, including: food contamination and rot, contamination of medical devices and a wide variety of human and animal infections. Biofilms are inherently resistant to antimicrobial agents and their physically sticky nature makes them challenging to treat and dislodge. A key step in the formation of many biofilms is bacterial communication through molecules known as quorum signals. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have engineered enzymes to break down quorum sensing molecules as a novel way to inhibit bacterial communication and disrupt or prevent biofilm formation. Bacteria often secrete acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs), a molecule required for quorum sensing and biofilm formation. AHLs are degraded by the enzyme lactonase. University of Minnesota researchers have engineered lactonases in order to maximize enzyme stability and activity against a wide variety of lactones. These enzymes are capable of disrupting bacterial communication and preventing biofilm formation. The improved solubility, stability and longevity profile of these enzymes makes them ideal anti-infectives. Specifically, they can be incorporated in a variety of solvents or coatings, thus rendering them readily deployable on most surfaces. Significant human and veterinary medicine applications are possible where biofilm control is critical, for example biofilms associated with cystic fibrosis, bacterial endocarditis and urinary tract infections.

Key Benefits

Prevents and disrupts biofilms. Non-toxic and biodegradable. Robust and useable in diverse environments. Scaleable production methods.

Applications

Disinfecting coating or spray (medical or food surfaces). Anti-microbial coating for medical devices/products (pacemakers, bandages, contacts, dentures, bandaids...) Prevent post-harvest crop rot Prevention of food contamination

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