Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) and the Oak Crest Institute of Science, have discovered the link between antibiotics and bacterial biofilm formation leading to chronic lung, sinus and ear infections. The study results, published in the current issue of PLOS ONE, illustrate how bacterial biofilms can actually thrive, rather than decrease, when given low doses of antibiotics. (Link to article at Hearing Review)
“This research addresses the long standing issues surrounding chronic ear infections and why some children experience repeated ear infections even after antibiotic treatment,” says Paul Webster, PhD, lead author, senior staff scientist at USC and senior faculty at the Oak Crest Institute of Science. “Once the biofilm forms, it becomes stronger with each treatment of antibiotics.”
During the study, non-typeable Haemophilus influenza (NTHi) bacteria, a common pathogen of humans, was exposed to non-lethal doses of ampicillin, a class of antibiotics commonly used to treat respiratory, sinus and ear infections. The dose of the antibiotic was not enough to kill the bacteria, which allowed the bacteria to react to the antibiotic by producing glycogen to produce stronger biofilms. Glycogen is a complex sugar often used by bacteria as a food source.
Dr Webster believes modern medicine needs to find ways of detecting and treating biofilm infections before the bacteria are able to form these protective structures. The difficulties of treating biofilm infections, which can be up to 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics, have prompted some physicians to propose a gradual move away from traditional antibiotic treatments and toward non-antibiotic therapies.
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