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Microbiologist finds new way to send slime packing

David Davies has discovered and is synthesizing a molecule that could help put one of the most virulent “terrorist cells” in all of nature out of business.

When traveling alone in planktonic form, most bacteria are of small consequence and generally easy to manage, even with antibacterial hand soaps. But when they form biofilms, bacteria show resistance to antibiotics, biocides and immune function. Biofilms are a leading cause of inflammation and chronic infection in humans, and an expensive intruder in manufacturing processes, costing billions every year.

Davies, associate professor of biology at Binghamton, has isolated and synthesized a compound that induces biofilm colonies to disperse, leaving individual bacteria up to 1,000 times more susceptible to disinfectants and antibiotics. This small molecule appears to be one of the few known examples anywhere in nature of a communication signal that remains effective across species, family and phyla.

Davies’ extraordinary discovery – which he considers the “Holy Grail” of biofilm research -- will likely mean a sea change in health care, manufacturing, sanitation and pharmaceutics over the coming years.

Learn more about Davies and his research.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08