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Study sheds new light on biofilms

Iowa City, Iowa — Researchers say they uncovered information about pathogenic biofilms that could lead to the development of new drugs to combat their potential threat to health, Medical News Today reports.

Biofilms are complex communities of microbial pathogens that are resistant to the human immune system and antibiotics. It had been believed that each pathogen formed one kind of biofilm, but this study, led by University of Iowa biologist David Soll, Ph.D., found that the pernicious fungal pathogen Candida albicans makes two kinds of biofilms: a traditional pathogenic one and a second, sexual one.

Dr. Soll and colleagues showed for the first time that about 90 percent of cells colonizing humans make a pathogenic biofilm that cannot be penetrated by antifungal agents, antibodies or white blood cells. But the remaining 10 percent of cells, which are sexually competent, form highly permeable and penetrable biofilms that act as a supportive environment for mating. This discovery shows that though the pathogenic and sexual biofilms appear macroscopically similar, they are regulated by entirely different signaling pathways.

Medical News Today quotes Dr. Soll as saying, “Having two outwardly similar, but functionally different, biofilms provides us with one means of finding out what makes the pathogenic biofilm resistant to all challenges and the sexual biofilm nonresistant. Whatever that difference is will represent a major target for future drug discovery.”

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