Growth in a biofilm sensitizes Cutibacterium acnes to nanosecond pulsed electric fields.

Research paper by Asia A Poudel, Adenrele A Oludiran, Esin B EB Sözer, Maura M Casciola, Erin B EB Purcell, Claudia C Muratori

Indexed on: 28 Mar '21Published on: 28 Mar '21Published in: Bioelectrochemistry


The Gram-positive anaerobic bacterium Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) is a commensal of the human skin, but also an opportunistic pathogen that contributes to the pathophysiology of the skin disease acne vulgaris. C. acnes can form biofilms; cells in biofilms are more resilient to antimicrobial stresses. Acne therapeutic options such as topical or systemic antimicrobial treatments often show incomplete responses. In this study we measured the efficacy of nanosecond pulsed electric fields (nsPEF), a new promising cell and tissue ablation technology, to inactivate C. acnes. Our results show that all tested nsPEF doses (250 to 2000 pulses, 280 ns pulses, 28 kV/cm, 5 Hz; 0.5 to 4 kJ/ml) failed to inactivate planktonic C. acnes and that pretreatment with lysozyme, a naturally occurring cell-wall-weakening enzyme, increased C. acnes vulnerability to nsPEF. Surprisingly, growth in a biofilm appears to sensitize C. acnes to nsPEF-induced stress, as C. acnes biofilm-derived cells showed increased cell death after nsPEF treatments that did not affect planktonic cells. Biofilm inactivation by nsPEF was confirmed by treating intact biofilms grown on glass coverslips with an indium oxide conductive layer. Altogether our results show that, contrary to other antimicrobial agents, nsPEF kill more efficiently bacteria in biofilms than planktonic cells. Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.