Researchers heal wounds with lactobacilli

Researchers from Switzerland and the USA have jointly developed a dressing that uses probiotics to eliminate pathogens in chronic wounds. The process uses lactic acid bacteria to destroy pathogens that form a biofilm to protect themselves from antibiotics.

Empa researcher Qun Ren is looking for new ways to combat persistent biofilms. Image credit: Empa
Empa researcher Qun Ren is looking for new ways to combat persistent biofilms. Image credit: Empa

A team from the Biointerfaces Laboratory of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) in St.Gallen and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is using probiotics in the form of lactic acid bacteria to heal chronic wounds. These beneficial bacteria, also known as lactobacilli, are integrated into wound dressings, allowing the live lactobacilli to produce lactic acid in a protected environment. 

In laboratory tests, the dressing released the product, which has a strongly acidic pH of 4, into the environment in a controlled and steady manner, according to a statement. As a result, the lactic acid bacteria could completely destroy a typical biofilm of pathogens in a culture dish.

It is due to this biofilm that the treatment of chronic wounds is so difficult. It is formed as a layer of mucus by the harmful wound bacteria for their own protection. They use it to attach themselves to surfaces, and antibiotics or disinfectants reach their limits because they cannot get to the dangerous germs.

The laboratory success was also confirmed in tissue samples of human skin: the bio-compound reduced the number of disease germs by 99.999 per cent. In addition, the researchers demonstrated that the probiotics were well tolerated by human skin cells while also triggering the production of immune system messengers. The team's study was recently published by the online research results database, Science Direct. Now, further analysis on the mechanism of action will help to harness the potential of this living wound-healing material.

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