Strategies to analyse and control the extracellular polymeric substances of biofilm

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Abstract Background and Aim: Until the discovery of biofilms in the 1970s, microorganisms were considered to only exist in a free living or planktonic state. Biofilms occur when microorganisms gather and aggregate on surfaces and produce extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), which the microbial cells are embed in. Biofilms are involved in a wide range of diseases and exhibit increased resistance to antimicrobial agents, due to numerous and complex mechanisms, several of which depend upon EPS. EPS comprise of many molecules and are produced primarily by the microorganisms but may also be acquired from the surrounding environment. EPS provides a ‘scaffold’ for the biofilm and facilitates attachment between cells and to the surface. EPS also affords physical and chemical protection against external stresses. Given the importance of EPS to the biofilm, its complexity and variations. Aim: The aim of this research was to undertake a literature search to gain an overview of the analytical and therapeutic approaches used with EPS. Methods: Three databases were searched to retrieve articles related to analysing or controlling EPS. Out of 1423 articles retrieved, 92 articles that discussed EPS analysis and control were identified. Conclusion: Overall, two groups of studies using approaches that analysed EPS and sought to control EPS were identified. The first group employed specific targeting of known EPS components and required prior knowledge of the targeted biofilm. The second group was based on non-specific targeting, where the approach did not require previous determination of the EPS, and all components were targeted. The latter was more useful in exploring unknown EPS structures. However, for analysing EPS, most studies combined different approaches to facilitate recognition and evaluation. It was clear from the research that there was a need to improve analytical strategies in a manner that was affordable and demanded limited expertise. Similarly, it was evident that strategies to control EPS had undoubted potential as key methods for therapeutic intervention in managing biofilmassociated infections