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J Oral Microbiol. 2014 Dec 17;6:26102. doi: 10.3402/jom.v6.26102. eCollection 2014.

Dynamic interactions of neutrophils and biofilms.

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Center for Dental and Oral Medicine, Department of Periodontology, Operative and Preventive Dentistry, University Hospital Bonn, Welschnonnenstraße, 17 D-53111 Bonn, Germany;



The majority of microbial infections in humans are biofilm-associated and difficult to treat, as biofilms are highly resistant to antimicrobial agents and protect themselves from external threats in various ways. Biofilms are tenaciously attached to surfaces and impede the ability of host defense molecules and cells to penetrate them. On the other hand, some biofilms are beneficial for the host and contain protective microorganisms. Microbes in biofilms express pathogen-associated molecular patterns and epitopes that can be recognized by innate immune cells and opsonins, leading to activation of neutrophils and other leukocytes. Neutrophils are part of the first line of defense and have multiple antimicrobial strategies allowing them to attack pathogenic biofilms.


In this paper, interaction modes of neutrophils with biofilms are reviewed. Antimicrobial strategies of neutrophils and the counteractions of the biofilm communities, with special attention to oral biofilms, are presented. Moreover, possible adverse effects of neutrophil activity and their biofilm-promoting side effects are discussed.


Biofilms are partially, but not entirely, protected against neutrophil assault, which include the processes of phagocytosis, degranulation, and formation of neutrophil extracellular traps. However, virulence factors of microorganisms, microbial composition, and properties of the extracellular matrix determine whether a biofilm and subsequent microbial spread can be controlled by neutrophils and other host defense factors. Besides, neutrophils may inadvertently contribute to the physical and ecological stability of biofilms by promoting selection of more resistant strains. Moreover, neutrophil enzymes can degrade collagen and other proteins and, as a result, cause harm to the host tissues. These parameters could be crucial factors in the onset of periodontal inflammation and the subsequent tissue breakdown.


biofilms; host–biofilm interactions; neutrophils; periodontitis

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