A radio frequency electric current enhances antibiotic efficacy against bacterial biofilms

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2004 Dec;48(12):4662-4. doi: 10.1128/AAC.48.12.4662-4664.2004.


Bacterial biofilms are notably resistant to antibiotic prophylaxis. The concentration of antibiotic necessary to significantly reduce the number of bacteria in the biofilm matrix can be several hundred times the MIC for the same bacteria in a planktonic phase. It has been observed that the addition of a weak continuous direct electric current to the liquid surrounding the biofilm can dramatically increase the efficacy of the antibiotic. This phenomenon, known as the bioelectric effect, has only been partially elucidated, and it is not certain that the electrical parameters are optimal. We confirm here the bioelectric effect for Escherichia coli biofilms treated with gentamicin and with oxytetracycline, and we report a new bioelectric effect with a radio frequency alternating electric current (10 MHz) instead of the usual direct current. None of the proposed explanations (transport of ions within the biofilm, production of additional biocides by electrolysis, etc.) of the direct current bioelectric effect are applicable to the radio frequency bioelectric effect. We suggest that this new phenomenon may be due to a specific action of the radio frequency electromagnetic field upon the polar parts of the molecules forming the biofilm matrix.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biofilms / drug effects*
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Biofilms / radiation effects*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Electricity*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / radiation effects*
  • Gentamicins / pharmacology
  • Oxytetracycline / pharmacology
  • Radio Waves
  • Solutions


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Gentamicins
  • Solutions
  • Oxytetracycline