The fellowship of the ring: a tale of biofilm and dermatological diseases
Microbial biofilm in skin diseases is emerging as a major determinant in several dermatological disorders including chronic wounds, acne vulgaris, atopic dermatitis and recurrent genital infections, thus opening new avenues for dermatological microbiology.
“The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong.” Those evocative words are not from the On the Origin of Species but rather an extract of the fantasy novels The Fellowship of the Ring written by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Honestly, when as a child I used to read this book, I never imagined that in real life I'd be back one day to seek for the One Ring. However, differently from the imaginary Ring described by Tolkien, which is filled by hidden messages and symbolic meanings, the ring I am talking about is a more concrete and less metaphorical one.
This ring is the result of the aggregation of the magnetic microparticles in the BioFilm Ring Test, which is an assay used to measure biofilm production. Recently, this technology has been adapted by our research group, at the Institute San Gallicano in Rome, to allow for a rapid identification of biofilm-producing bacteria(Development of an in vitro assay, Based on the biofilm Ring Test®, for Rapid-Growing Profiling of Biofilm Bacteria). In contrast to the other commonly used methods, that require long time of incubation and laborious handling procedure, the clinical Biofilm Ring Test (cBRT) is an easy to prepare and robust assay that allows to characterize, in only five hours, biofilm formation by the major hospital pathogens. This method is now used in our laboratory in order to evaluate the impact of microbial biofilm in the clinical management of patients.
Specifically, we are assessing the role of biofilm production by different microbial pathogens in implant-related infections (i.e. nerve stimulators, orthopedic prostheses and catheter-related infections). We are also developing different projects aimed at investigating the role of microbial biofilm in main skin diseases. Variations in the resident microbiota of human skin have been implicated in different cutaneous disorders and the impact of biofilm in dermatology has long been only marginally explored by microbiologists. However, something is changing. Microbial biofilm in skin diseases is emerging as a major determinant in several dermatological disorders including chronic wounds, acne vulgaris, atopic dermatitis and recurrent genital infections, thus opening new avenues for dermatological microbiology.
The characters of Tolkien I loved in my childhood aren’t around anymore but I am thrilled being a part of The Fellowship of the Ring looking for the One Ring.