David Davies has isolated a compound that will cause biofilm colonies to disperse, thus leaving individual bacteria up to 1,000 times more susceptible to disinfectants, antibiotics and immune functions. The discovery could prove useful in health care, manufacturing, shipping and pharmaceutics.
Biofilm communities are responsible for much of the biological activity attributed to bacteria in the wide range of habitats occupied by these biochemically complex microorganisms. Davies’ lab is investigating the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, perhaps the most abundant organism on the planet, and one that is found predominantly in biofilms.
He is interested in how this organism changes the regulation of biofilm-specific genes during the four stages of biofilm development. His research includes investigating the influence of specific genes, such as those involved in cell-to-cell communication, on the production of the matrix polymer material that is responsible for cementing biofilm bacteria to surfaces and for maintaining the integrity of the biofilm architecture.
Davies, an associate professor of biology at Binghamton University, is also looking at the mechanisms by which Pseudomonas biofilms are "autodispersed" in an effort to develop methods by which biofilm disruption can be reproducibly induced.
The disruption of biofilms is of major importance in medicine, where treatment of biofilm infections has proved to be generally ineffective. In another area of his research, Davies is looking at the protein profile or "proteome" of the bacteria during the biofilm development process in order to characterize the phenotypic changes that are experienced by the bacteria and to help reveal targets for agents that will interfere with normal biofilm development.