Combined treatment of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm with lactoferrin and xylitol inhibits the ability of bacteria to respond to damage resulting from lactoferrin iron chelation

Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2011 Apr;37(4):316-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2010.12.019. Epub 2011 Mar 5.


With an ageing and ever more obese population, chronic wounds such as diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers and venous leg ulcers are an increasingly relevant medical concern. Identification of bacterial biofilm contamination as a major contributor to non-healing wounds demands biofilm-targeted strategies to manage chronic wounds. Pseudomonas aeruginosa has been identified as a principal biofilm-forming opportunistic pathogen in chronic wounds. The innate immune molecule lactoferrin and the rare sugar alcohol xylitol have been demonstrated to be co-operatively efficacious against P. aeruginosa biofilms in vitro. Data presented here propose a model for the molecular mechanism behind this co-operative antimicrobial effect. Lactoferrin iron chelation was identified as the primary means by which lactoferrin destabilises the bacterial membrane. By microarray analysis, 183 differentially expressed genes of ≥ 1.5-fold difference were detected. Interestingly, differentially expressed transcripts included the operon encoding components of the pyochelin biosynthesis pathway. Furthermore, siderophore detection verified that xylitol is the component of this novel synergistic treatment that inhibits the ability of the bacteria to produce siderophores under conditions of iron restriction. The findings presented here demonstrate that whilst lactoferrin treatment of P. aeruginosa biofilms results in destabilisation of the bacterial cell membrane though iron chelation, combined treatment with lactoferrin and xylitol inhibits the ability of P. aeruginosa biofilms to respond to environmental iron restriction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Biofilms*
  • DNA Primers
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Iron Chelating Agents / pharmacology*
  • Lactoferrin / pharmacology*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / drug effects*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / physiology
  • Xylitol / pharmacology*


  • DNA Primers
  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Lactoferrin
  • Xylitol