Mechanism of the electrical enhancement of the efficacy of antibiotics in killing biofilm bacteria
Costerton, J. William
Ellis, B. D.
Khoury, Antoine E.
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The bioelectric effect, in which electric fields are used to enhance the efficacy of biocides and antibiotics in killing biofilm bacteria, has been shown to reduce the very high concentrations of these antibacterial agents needed to kill biofilm bacteria to levels very close to those needed to kill planktonic (floating) bacteria of the same species. In this report, we show that biofilm bacteria are readily killed by an antibiotic on all areas of the active electrodes and on the surfaces of conductive elements that lie within the electric field but do not themselves function as electrodes. Considerations of electrode geometry indicate that very low (< 100 microA/cm2) current densities may be effective in this electrical enhancement of antibiotic efficacy against biofilm bacteria, and flow experiments indicate that this bioelectric effect does not appear to depend entirely on the possible local electrochemical generation of antibacterial molecules or ions. These data are expected to facilitate the use of the bioelectric effect in the prevention and treatment of device-related bacterial infections that are caused by bacteria that grow in biofilms and thereby frustrate antibiotic chemotherapy.
Costerton, J.W., B. Ellis, K. Lam, F. Johnson, and A.E. Khoury, "Mechanism of the electrical enhancement of the efficacy of antibiotics in killing biofilm bacteria," Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 38(12):2803-2809 (1994).