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Int Microbiol. 2009 Jun;12(2):77-85.

Pneumococcal biofilms.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology, Biological Research Center, Madrid, Spain.


Over 60% of bacterial infections (and up to 80% of chronic infections) are currently considered to involve microbial growth in biofilms. This peculiar form of life poses an array of problems in human clinical practice, from infections associated with the implant of prosthetic devices and dental plaque formation to diseases such as cystic fibrosis, otitis media, and endocarditis. Biofilms are also at the basis of a variety of problems in industry. This report describes the biofilms produced by Streptococcus pneumoniae. This bacterium often colonizes the upper airways in humans as a normal commensal, yet it may spread to other areas of the body, causing otitis media, pneumonia, or invasive diseases such as bacteremia and meningitis. The capacity of S. pneumoniae to form biofilms had not been explored until recently. Several newly developed in vitro systems have allowed to test the capacity of S. pneumoniae to form biofilms, and to analyze the influence of several factors, including DNA and proteins-which play a role in the virulence of this "supergerm" in the formation and development of biofilms. In this brief review, we update the knowledge available on pneumococcal biofilm formation and the unusual features of this structure.

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