In my last post I’ve looked at biofilm infections and why they could be at the root of bladder problems. In this post I’m going to look at potential treatments for biofilm infections.
If you haven’t read my last post yet it might be a good idea to read it now. It explains what biofilms are.
Biofilms have been recognized to play a role in many infections, yet orthodox treatment options are still limited and research is ongoing.
Treating biofilms is difficult because of the limited ability of antibiotic agents to actually get to the bacteria. Natural antibiotics are no exception.
How is a biofilm infection diagnosed?
For patients with a urinary catheter a biofilm infection is suspected if they have recurrent urinary tract infections with the same pathogen (often Candida or Enterococcus species) .
For everyone else it is not as easy to get diagnosed.
Different methods have been used in studies to look for biofilm infections:
- Tissue biopsy together with microbial cultivation in a lab is one option but newer techniques of microbiology are probably more accurate. These include gene sequencing or fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) .
- Bacteria can be cultured from urine samples and can be checked for their ability to produce biofilms in a petri dish . However, this method would not necessarily confirm a biofilm infection in the body.
- High-resolution microscopy could be used to look for biofilms and pods in the bladder.
Unfortunately I could not locate any private labs in the UK that test for biofilms in the bladder.
There are two doctors in London that test and treat for biofilm infections: Professor James Malone-Lee and Dr Sohier Elneil (trained by Malone-Lee). Please get in touch with the COB foundation (www.cobfoundation.org) for an information pack.
Given the limited choice of testing options and available doctors that specialize in biofilm infections it may be difficult and time consuming to get a diagnosis/treatment.
Luckily there are safe and natural options that can help prevent and fight biofilm infections.
Natural Prevention of Biofilm Formation
There are several supplements and foods that can prevent bacteria from forming biofilms in the first place. This can be achieved by disrupting bacterial communication (aka quorum-sensing) or by preventing bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.
Zinc: Has been show to inhibit biofilm formation of several pathogenic bacteria, including E. Coli and Klebsiella [3, 4]. Zinc is commonly available as a supplement and safe to use.
Probiotics: Several probiotic strains of E.Coli have been shown to be able to outcompete pathogenic E.coli during biofilm formation . The most promising strain is E. coli strain Nissle 1917 , which is sold in Germany under the brand-name Mutaflor.
Lactoferrin: Is a protein naturally found in our immune system. It can bind to free iron in the body. Iron is essential for bacterial growth and can feed pathogens. Bacteria need iron to form biofilms. Lactoferrin has been shown to have great potential against biofilm formation [6, 7, 8]
Ginger extract: Has antimicrobial properties and has been shown to inhibit biofilm formation .
Cranberry: The anti-oxidant compounds found in cranberry called proanthocyanidins (PACs) have been found to have an inhibitory effect on the adhesion of E. coli on the bladder and urethral lining, thereby reducing their ability to form biofilms .
Natural Biofilm Disruptors
Once a biofilm has formed it is hard to get rid of. The most promising strategy is to disrupt the biofilm in order to ‘expose’ the bacteria an then to use antimicrobials to kill the bacteria.
Acetic Acid (found in Apple Cider Vinegar): Has been shown to be able to disrupt even mature biofilms and also has antimicrobial activity . Use raw ACV and dilute with water (probably best taken on an empty stomach).
Bacteriophages: Are viruses that infect bacteria. They are the ‘natural predators’ of bacteria and are able to break down biofilms and kill even antibiotic resistant bacteria [1, 2]. Bacteriophage therapy is currently available at the Phage Therapy Center in the country of Georgia (www.phagetherapycenter.com).
Chitosan: Has antimicrobial properties and can damage microbial biofilms .
Garlic extract: May alter the architecture of biofilms, making the bacteria more susceptible to antimicrobials . Garlic also has antimicrobial properties.
N-Acetylcysteine (NAC): Contains both sulphur and the amino acid cysteine. It is a precursor to the body’s master-antioxidant glutathione. Has been shown to disrupt biofilms .
Honey: Has antimicrobial properties and may disrupt biofilms. Manuka honey may be particularly useful .
Caprylic Acid: Derived from coconut oil. Has antimicrobial properties. Has also been shown to eradicate biofilms in a petri dish .
Proteolytic enzymes: They can disrupt the biofilm matrix by digesting some of the proteins that maintain it. Useful proteolytic enzymes include Trypsin, Serratiopeptidase and Nattokinase [16, 17, 18]. There are also specialist biofilm disruptor blends (Interfase Plus from Klaire Labs and Biofilm Defense from Kirkman). These enzymes need to be taken on an empty stomach in order to disrupt biofilms (otherwise they will just digest proteins in food). NB. People with bleeding disorders or those on blood-thinning medication should not take proteolytic enzymes.
Herbs that may disrupt biofilms
When using herbs we always need to remember that although natural, they can be powerful and may have adverse effects or could be contraindicated with certain medications. It is always best to work with a qualified herbalist.
- Black seed oil
- Oregano oil
- John’s Wort
Once we have disrupted the biofilm the bacteria need to be killed with antimicrobials. Conventional treatment would use antibiotics in conjunction with biofilm disruptors. Natural antimicrobials can also be very effective. Some of the aforementioned biofilm disruptors also have antimicrobial properties. These include:
- Garlic (Allicin)
- Manuka Honey
- Acetic Acid
- Caprylic Acid
- Oregano Oil
Other options could be:
- Olive Leaf Extract
- Uva Ursi
- Plant Tannins
If you think you may have a biofilm infection you may find relief with this natural approach.
Let me know how you got on in the comments!
Pin it for later:
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- Soto, Sara M. Importance of Biofilms in Urinary Tract Infections: New Therapeutic Approaches Advances in Biology 2014 [vol. 2014, Article ID 543974, 13 pages] available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ab/2014/543974/cta/
- Hancock, Victoria et al Abolition of Biofilm Formation in Urinary Tract Escherichia coliand Klebsiella Isolates by Metal Interference through Competition for Fur Environ. Microbiol. June 2010 [vol. 76 no. 12 3836-3841] available at: http://aem.asm.org/content/76/12/3836.full
- Wu, C. et al Zinc as an agent for the prevention of biofilm formation by pathogenic bacteria. Appl. Microbiology 2013 [115(1):30-40] available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23509865
- Hancock, Viktoria et al Probiotic Escherichia coli strain Nissle 1917 outcompetes intestinal pathogens during biofilm formation Med. Microbiol., April 2010 [59: 392-399] available at: http://jmm.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/jmm/10.1099/jmm.0.008672-0
- Ammons, MC et al Mini-review: Lactoferrin: a bioinspired, anti-biofilm therapeutic. 2013 [29(4):443-55.] available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23574002
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- Ginger Extract Inhibits Biofilm Formation byPseudomonas aeruginosa PA14 PLOS one 2013 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0076106
- Howell, AB. Bioactive compounds in cranberries and their role in prevention of urinary tract infections. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jun [51(6):732-7.]
- Bjarnsholt, Thomas et al Antibiofilm Properties of Acetic Acid Adv Wound Care 2015 [4 (7): 363-372] available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4486441/
- Zhang, Amin et al Chitosan Coupling Makes Microbial Biofilms Susceptible to Antibiotics Scientific Reports 3 2013, available at: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep03364
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- Chaignon P. et al. Susceptibility of staphylococcal biofilms to enzymatic treatments depends on their chemical composition. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol.2007 May [75(1):125-32] available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17221196
- Mecikoglu, M. et al The effect of proteolytic enzyme serratiopeptidase in the treatment of experimental implant-related infection. J Bone Joint Surg Am.2006 Jun [88(6):1208-14.] available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16757752
- Zapotokzna, M. et al An Essential Role for Coagulase in Staphylococcus aureus Biofilm Development Reveals New Therapeutic Possibilities for Device-Related Infections. J Infect Dis.2015 Dec 15 [212(12):1883-93.] available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26044292
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