The immune system vs. Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms


  • Editor: Gianfranco Donelli

Correspondence: Claus Moser, Department of Clinical Microbiology, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Tel.: +45 3545 4871; fax: +45 3545 6412; e-mail:


Ilya Metchnikoff and Paul Ehrlich were awarded the Nobel price in 1908. Since then, numerous studies have unraveled a multitude of mechanistically different immune responses to intruding microorganisms. However, in the vast majority of these studies, the underlying infectious agents have appeared in the planktonic state. Accordingly, much less is known about the immune responses to the presence of biofilm-based infections (which is probably also due to the relatively short period of time in which the immune response to biofilms has been studied). Nevertheless, more recent in vivo and in vitro studies have revealed both innate as well as adaptive immune responses to biofilms. On the other hand, measures launched by biofilm bacteria to achieve protection against the various immune responses have also been demonstrated. Whether particular immune responses to biofilm infections exist remains to be firmly established. However, because biofilm infections are often persistent (or chronic), an odd situation appears with the simultaneous activation of both arms of the host immune response, neither of which can eliminate the biofilm pathogen, but instead, in synergy, causes collateral tissue damage. Although the present review on the immune system vs. biofilm bacteria is focused on Pseudomonas aeruginosa (mainly because this is the most thoroughly studied), many of the same mechanisms are also seen with biofilm infections generated by other microorganisms.