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Int J Artif Organs. 2011 Sep;34(9):752-8. doi: 10.5301/ijao.5000024.

Role of antibiofilm-antimicrobial agents in controlling device-related infections.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA.



To assess the effects of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) on organism viability in planktonic and biofilm phases, biofilm thickness, and extracellular polysaccharide content.


We performed time-kill curves and broth macrodilution assays of bacterial and fungal clinical isolates with varying concentrations of NAC. We also created in vitro bacterial biofilms, incubated them with NAC or control, and then stained with propidium iodide and FITC-labeled concanavalin A. We measured biofilm thickness, number of non-viable cells, and fluorescent intensity as a marker of extracellular matrix via a confocal laser scanning microscope. All experiments were conducted in triplicate. Tested organisms included methicillin-sensitive and -resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA, MRSA), S. epidermidis, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis (VRE), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacter cloacae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Candida albicans and C. krusei.


NAC 80 mg/ml was uniformly bactericidal (>99.9% reduction) against all tested bacteria with no recoverable organisms after 30 minutes of incubation, but was fungistatic against candida species. Minimum inhibitory and bactericidal concentrations of NAC ranged from 5-10 mg/ml. Biofilm thickness was significantly decreased in NAC-treated biofilms for all organisms except VRE. The number of non-viable cells in NAC-treated Gram-positive biofilms was increased (p<0.05 for MRSA and VRE). NAC-treated Gram-negative biofilms had scant cellularity and lacked complex 3-dimensional structures that were characteristic of controls. Fluorescent intensity was similar in the experimental and control arms.


NAC is bactericidal against clinically relevant and drug-resistant bacteria and also leads to biofilm disruption. NAC has the potential for use as a novel agent for prevention or treatment of biofilm-related infections.

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