Bakaletz Lab Biofilm Work Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

July 13, 2017

The laboratory of Lauren Bakaletz, PhD, director, Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and vice president of basic sciences, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s, studied the biofilm construction capabilities of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI), a bacterium responsible for sinusitis, pneumonia, exacerbations of cystic fibrosis and COPD, bronchitis and ear infections. Biofilms are large 3D communities of bacteria that adhere to body surfaces and protect bacteria from environmental stressors such as antibiotics and antibodies. The lab found that when H. influenzae builds its biofilms, it does so via an active and regulated means while remaining intact, unlike other bacteria which self-sacrifice in order to contribute to the biofilm. Other types of bacteria either explode, sending their DNA into the biofilm, or shuttle their DNA out into the environment through a syringe-like appendage produced by the bacterium, all to benefit the potency of the biofilm.

The novel mechanism by which nontypeable H. influenzae releases DNA through an inner membrane pore complex that partners with another complex in the outer membrane allows DNA to be ejected out into the biofilm, via a previously unidentified process.

“We’re very excited that our work with biofilms has been accepted for publication by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” says Dr. Bakaletz. “Our lab hopes to use what we’ve learned about H. influenzae biofilms to identify vaccine targets as well as improve existing methods of therapeutic treatment for the diseases of the respiratory tract caused by this prevalent pathogen.”

About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2018-19 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric health care systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.4 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org.