Therapeutic potential of biofilm-dispersing enzymes

Int J Artif Organs. 2009 Sep;32(9):545-54. doi: 10.1177/039139880903200903.


Surface-attached colonies of bacteria known as biofilms play a major role in the pathogenesis of medical device infections. Biofilm colonies are notorious for their resistance to antibiotics and host defenses, which makes most device infections difficult or impossible to eradicate. Bacterial cells in a biofilm are held together by an extracellular polymeric matrix that is synthesized by the bacteria themselves. Enzymes that degrade biofilm matrix polymers have been shown to inhibit biofilm formation, detach established biofilm colonies, and render biofilm cells sensitive to killing by antimicrobial agents. This review discusses the potential use of biofilm matrix-degrading enzymes as anti-biofilm agents for the treatment and prevention of device infections. Two enzymes, deoxyribonuclease I and the glycoside hydrolase dispersin B, will be reviewed in detail. In vitro and in vivo studies demonstrating the anti-biofilm activities of these two enzymes will be summarized, and the therapeutic potential and possible drawbacks of using these enzymes as clinical agents will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Biofilms / drug effects*
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Deoxyribonuclease I / therapeutic use
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Enzyme Therapy*
  • Enzymes / metabolism
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / drug therapy*
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / microbiology
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / prevention & control


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Enzymes
  • Deoxyribonuclease I
  • Glycoside Hydrolases