Biofilms and their potential to cause Chronic Infections
Written by June 2017 Phoebe Wynne-Lewis, BHSc, Dip Nat Med, Dip Herb Med – FxMed Technical Support
Biofilms form when bacteria adhere to surfaces in aqueous environments and begin to excrete a slimy, glue-like substance that can anchor them to all kinds of material.
In a healthy gut that is filled with beneficial microflora, the biofilm that they create is thin mucus. This healthy gut biofilm is moistening, lubricating and anti-inflammatory and allows the passage of nutrients through the intestinal wall. Conversely, an unhealthy gut biofilm will promote inflammation and protect bacteria, parasites and yeast from the immune system and even the strongest medications (both herbal and pharmaceutical-grade).
In general, bacteria have two life forms during growth and proliferation. In one form, the bacteria exist as single, independent cells (planktonic bacteria) whereas in the other form, bacteria are organized into a biofilm aggregate. Acute infections are assumed to involve planktonic bacteria, which are generally treatable. However, where the bacteria succeed in forming a biofilm within the human host, the infection often turns out to be hard to treat and often develops into a chronic state. The important hallmarks of chronic biofilm-based infections are extreme resistance to antibiotics and many other antimicrobial agents, and an extreme capacity for evading the host defences.
Biofilms have the potential to cause a tremendous array of infections and diseases, and there is little doubt that biofilms are part of the ‘pathogenic mix’ that cause most or all chronic “autoimmune” and inflammatory diseases. Biofilms are held together by a protective exopolysaccharide (EPS) matrix. This matrix protects the bacteria from oxidative damage caused by antimicrobial agents and increases their resistance.
One of the most effective ways to eliminate biofilm is to dissolve the EPS matrix with enzymes. The EPS matrix consists of proteins, nucleotides and saccharides. Specialized enzymes can break those components down, reducing them which weakens the matrix. For example, proteases can be used to break down the proteins that compose the EPS matrix. Glucoamylase, pectinase, cellulase and beta-glucanse can break down saccharides. Enzymes have the capacity to dissolve both bacterial and yeast biofilms.