Slimy Bacteria Common Cause Of Chronic Infections

BOZEMAN, MT--Bacterial slime is the culprit behind many nagging infections that plague children and adults, say scientists from Montana State University-Bozeman and the University of Iowa in a paper that will be published May 21, 1999 in the journal Science.

Ear infections, periodontitis and cystic fibrosis pneumonia are just a few examples of the infections that involve sticky communities of bacteria called biofilms. Lingering infections can also occur when a person has sutures, contact lenses, urinary catheters, intrauterine devices (IUDs), mechanical heart valves, penile prostheses, and a variety of other implanted devices or procedures.

The researchers explain the relationship between biofilms and infections in a review paper titled, "Bacterial Biofilms: A Common Cause of Persistent Infections." William Costerton, director of MSU's Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE), is the lead author. Co-authors are Philip Stewart of the CBE and Pete Greenberg of the University of Iowa.

"We have made mild inroads into the medical area since '92," Costerton said. "We are chipping away at our image of bacteria."

Recent advances in understanding the genetic and molecular makeup of biofilms may help find ways to control related infections, the article says.

Science is a weekly journal that publishes scientific news, as well as the most significant breakthroughs in global research. It is the world's largest circulation journal for a general science audience.

"Having a paper accepted that you submitted is rare," Costerton commented. "But then to be invited to write a review for them is a world recognition. I think it's wonderful."

Science is an ideal forum since it covers the "whole spectrum of science, medicine and engineering," he added.

The biofilm article reviews much of the work that has become familiar to followers of the CBE. It tells how bacteria attach to surfac

Contact: Bill Costerton
Montana State University

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