Diminishing biofilm resistance to antimicrobial nanomaterials through electrolyte screening of electrostatic interactions

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The extracellular polymer substances (EPS) generated by biofilms confers resistance to antimicrobial agents through electrostatic and steric interactions that hinder molecular diffusion. This resistance mechanism is particularly evident for antibacterial nanomaterials, which inherently diffuse more slowly compared to small organic antibacterial agents. The aim of this study was to determine if a biofilm’s resistance to antibacterial nanomaterials diffusion could be diminished using electrolytes to screen the EPS’s electrostatic interactions. Anionic (+) alpha-tocopherol phosphate (α-TP) liposomes were used as the antimicrobial nanomaterials in the study. They self-assembled into 700 nm structures with a zeta potential of −20 mV that were capable of killing oral bacteria (S. oralis growth inhibition time of 3.34 ± 0.52 h). In a phosphate (-ve) buffer the -ve α-TP liposomes did not penetrate multispecies oral biofilms, but in a Tris (hydroxymethyl)aminomethane (+ve) buffer they did (depth - 12.4 ± 3.6 µm). The Tris did not modify the surface charge of the α-TP nanomaterials, rather it facilitated the α-TP-biofilm interactions through electrolyte screening (Langmuir modelled surface pressure increase of 2.7 ± 1.8 mN/ m). This data indicated that EPS resistance was mediated through charge repulsion and that this effect could be diminished through the co-administration of cationic electrolytes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalColloids And Surfaces B-Biointerfaces
Early online date12 Sept 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Sept 2018


  • (+) alpha tocopheryl phosphate
  • antimicrobial
  • resistance
  • tooth enamel
  • nanomaterial
  • oral biofilm
  • penetration
  • electrolyte screening
  • biological interactions


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