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Microbiology. 2007 Jun;153(Pt 6):1693-701.

Phenotypic and functional characterization of Bacillus anthracis biofilms.

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  • 1Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA.


Biofilms, communities of micro-organisms attached to a surface, are responsible for many chronic diseases and are often associated with environmental reservoirs or lifestyles. Bacillus anthracis is a Gram-positive, endospore-forming bacterium and is the aetiological agent of pulmonary, gastrointestinal and cutaneous anthrax. Anthrax infections are part of the natural lifecycle of many ruminants in North America, including cattle and bison, and B. anthracis is thought to be a central part of this ecosystem. However, in endemic areas in which humans and livestock interact, chronic cases of cutaneous anthrax are commonly reported. This suggests that biofilms of B. anthracis exist in the environment and are part of the ecology associated with its lifecycle. Currently, there are few data that account for the importance of the biofilm mode of life in B. anthracis, yet biofilms have been characterized in other pathogenic and non-pathogenic Bacillus species, including Bacillus cereus and Bacillus subtilis, respectively. This study investigated the phenotypic and functional role of biofilms in B. anthracis. The results demonstrate that B. anthracis readily forms biofilms which are inherently resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics, and that antibiotic resistance is not solely the function of sporulation.

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