Use of antimicrobial peptides against microbial biofilms: advantages and limits

Curr Med Chem. 2011;18(2):256-79. doi: 10.2174/092986711794088399.


The formation of surface-attached cellular agglomerates, the so-called biofilms, contributes significantly to bacterial resistance to antibiotics and innate host defenses. Bacterial biofilms are associated to various pathological conditions in humans such as cystic fibrosis, colonization of indwelling medical devices and dental plaque formation involved in caries and periodontitis. Over the last years, natural antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have attracted considerable interest as a new class of antimicrobial drugs for a number of reasons. Among these, there are the broad activity spectrum, the relative selectivity towards their targets (microbial membranes), the rapid mechanism of action and, above all, the low frequency in selecting resistant strains. Since biofilm resistance to antibiotics is mainly due to the slow growth rate and low metabolic activity of bacteria in such community, the use of AMPs to inhibit biofilm formation could be potentially an attractive therapeutic approach. In fact, due to the prevalent mechanism of action of AMPs, which relies on their ability to permeabilize and/or to form pores within the cytoplasmic membranes, they have a high potential to act also on slow growing or even non-growing bacteria. This review will highlight the most important findings obtained testing AMPs in in vitro and in vivo models of bacterial biofilms, pointing out the possible advantages and limits of their use against microbial biofilm-related infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / chemistry*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / pharmacology
  • Biofilms / drug effects*
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Peptidomimetics / chemical synthesis
  • Peptidomimetics / chemistry*
  • Peptidomimetics / pharmacology
  • Quorum Sensing


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Peptidomimetics