Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why antibiofilm agents are unavailable in the market?

The abstract of the review article “Will biofilm disassembly agents make it to the market?” (Romero and Kolter 2011) is given below.

“Nearly 12 years after promising results suggested that antibiofilm agents might be developed into novel therapeutics, there are no such products on the market. In our opinion, the reasons for this have been predominantly economic. Recent developments, however, suggest that there could still be emerging opportunities for the developments of such products.”

The authors attribute the failure to develop antibiofilm products mainly on economic factors.

“We do not think that the failure to develop a product has been as a result of the fact that the antibiofilm approach is intrinsically flawed. Rather, we feel that the path to product development is long and expensive and the potential market is not as lucrative as corporations would like it to be.”

Is the economical factor mainly responsible for the failure? Isn’t true that at least some of the aspects of biofilm research are intrinsically flawed? Take persisters and their phenotypic shift as an example. Persisters are implicated in chronic infections and biofilm-associated infections. Researchers claim that by targeting this small subpopulation of bacteria, it may be possible to treat chronic infections successfully. However, is it possible to achieve their claim?

Earlier, I had argued in my book that the current knowledge on persisters is fundamentally flawed. The aim of the last few blogposts was also to question the significance of many of the research findings on persisters.

Authors suggest that the continuing research on biofilms might yield some promising avenues that might someday be translated to products. We can hope that biofilm disassembly products using enzymes, phages or small molecules will be available in the market in future.  However, at least with persisters, future outlook is pessimistic. The reason is simple; when the hypothesis is fundamentally flawed, the chances of product development based on the hypothesis are also very low.

Previous blog: Is the effectiveness of mannitol (Allison et al. 2011) due to elimination of persisters?

Romero, D. and Kolter, R. (2011). Will biofilm disassembly agents make it to the market? Trends in Microbiology 19(7): 304-306.

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