All infections start with contact between a pathogen and a host—so thwarting these interactions can prevent disease. In the same way, disrupting microbes’ ability to interact with surfaces reduces the formation of biofilms, which are communities of bacteria that are highly resistant to antibiotics. Biofilms are responsible for up to 65 per cent of infections. By preventing biofilms from forming, we may be able to counter both disease and the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance.
To make this happen, Dr. Lori Burrows, Canada Research Chair in Microbe-Surface Interactions, is studying the physical and chemical cues that influence biofilm formation. Using Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a model pathogen, Burrows and her research team are studying how pili—the hairlike filaments that gather information when bacteria are forming biofilms—interact with bacteria-specific viruses called bacteriophages (phages). Phages can potentially be used as treatments for antibiotic-resistant variants. Ultimately, Burrows’ research will lead to the discovery of new, much-needed antimicrobial treatments for resistant infections.