The effect of electrical currents and tobramycin on pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms

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The combined use of antibiotics with low levels of electrical current has been reported to be more effective in controlling biofilms (the bioelectric effect) than antibiotics alone. An electrical colonisation cell was designed to study the effect of antibiotics on biofilms formed on a dialysis membrane away from the electrode surface. To avoid the electrochemical generation of toxic products,Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms were formed in minimal salts medium that excluded chloride-containing compounds. Under these conditions, electrical currents of up to 20 mA cm−2 did not prevent biofilm formation or have any detrimental effect on an established biofilm. Tobramycin alone at concentrations of 10 μg ml−1 did not affect the biofilm, but were significantly enhanced by 9 mA cm−2. The effect of tobramycin concentrations of 25 μg ml−1 were enhanced by a 15 mA cm−2 electrical current. In both cases higher levels of electrical current, up to 20 mA cm−2, did not further enhance the effect of the antibiotic. The possible mechanisms of action of the bioelectric effect have been reported to involve electrophoresis, iontophoresis and electroporesis, thus overcoming the biofilm biomass and cell wall barriers. Our results suggest that other factors may also be important, such as the metabolic activity and growth rate of the bacteria. Such factors may be critical in maximising antibiotic efficacy.




Jass, J., J.W. Costerton, and H.M. Lappin-Scott, “The Effect of Electrical Currents and Tobramycin on Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilms,”Journal of Industrial Microbiology, 15:234-242 (1995).
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