Antibiotic efficacy testing in an ex vivo model of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus Biofilms in the cystic fibrosis lung

NE Harrington, E Sweeney, I Alav, F Allen*, J Moat, F Harrison

*Corresponding author for this work

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The effective prescription of antibiotics for the bacterial biofilms present within the lungs of individuals with cystic fibrosis (CF) is limited by a poor correlation between antibiotic susceptibility testing (AST) results using standard diagnostic methods (e.g., broth microdilution, disk diffusion, or Etest) and clinical outcomes after antibiotic treatment. Attempts to improve AST by the use of off-the-shelf biofilm growth platforms show little improvement in results. The limited ability of in vitro biofilm systems to mimic the physicochemical environment of the CF lung and, therefore bacterial physiology and biofilm architecture, also acts as a brake on the discovery of novel therapies for CF infection. Here, we present a protocol to perform AST of CF pathogens grown as mature, in vivo-like biofilms in an ex vivo CF lung model comprised of pig bronchiolar tissue and synthetic CF sputum (ex vivo pig lung, EVPL).

Several in vitro assays exist for biofilm susceptibility testing, using either standard laboratory medium or various formulations of synthetic CF sputum in microtiter plates. Both growth medium and biofilm substrate (polystyrene plate vs. bronchiolar tissue) are likely to affect biofilm antibiotic tolerance. We show enhanced tolerance of clinical Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus isolates in the ex vivo model; the effects of antibiotic treatment of biofilms is not correlated with the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) in standard microdilution assays or a sensitive/resistant classification in disk diffusion assays.

The ex vivo platform could be used for bespoke biofilm AST of patient samples and as an enhanced testing platform for potential antibiofilm agents during pharmaceutical research and development. Improving the prescription or acceleration of antibiofilm drug discovery through the use of more in vivo-like testing platforms could drastically improve health outcomes for individuals with CF, as well as reduce the costs of clinical treatment and discovery research.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere62187
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2021


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