Background and aims Device-related infections are thought to be initiated by adhesion of the bacteria to a medical device, followed by colonisation and mature biofilm formation. Preterm infants are susceptible to device-related infections caused by Staphylococcus epidermidis. Also, preterm infants have lower levels of antimicrobial peptides, including human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide LL37, a condition that in part may explain their increased vulnerability. Our aim was to evaluate the effect of peptide LL37 on 1) the expression of biofilm-associated genes and 2) biofilm mass, by using an in vitro model.
Methods Biofilm formation of S. epidemidis was studied on intra vascular catheter pieces and in culture plates, in the absence or presence of LL37. Bacterial biofilm mass was investigated by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Changes in biofilm-associated gene expression was determined by real-time polymerase chain reaction.
Results Tissue-like concentration of the peptide down-regulated most of the investigated genes after 2 h. A diminished biofilm mass was seen on the catheter surface by SEM after 24 h incubation.
Conclusions Peptide LL37, as part of innate immune defense of the newborn infant is crucial for the regulation of the commensal flora, including Staphylococcus epidermidis. A diminished activity of LL37, as found in preterm infants, may contribute to increase their risk of device-related infections.