Antibiotic discovery: combatting bacterial resistance in cells and in biofilm communities

Anahit Penesyan*, Michael Gillings, Ian T. Paulsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

243 Citations (Scopus)
47 Downloads (Pure)


Bacterial resistance is a rapidly escalating threat to public health as our arsenal of effective antibiotics dwindles. Therefore, there is an urgent need for new antibiotics. Drug discovery has historically focused on bacteria growing in planktonic cultures. Many antibiotics were originally developed to target individual bacterial cells, being assessed in vitro against microorganisms in a planktonic mode of life. However, towards the end of the 20th century it became clear that many bacteria live as complex communities called biofilms in their natural habitat, and this includes habitats within a human host. The biofilm mode of life provides advantages to microorganisms, such as enhanced resistance towards environmental stresses, including antibiotic challenge. The community level resistance provided by biofilms is distinct from resistance mechanisms that operate at a cellular level, and cannot be overlooked in the development of novel strategies to combat infectious diseases. The review compares mechanisms of antibiotic resistance at cellular and community levels in the light of past and present antibiotic discovery efforts. Future perspectives on novel strategies for treatment of biofilm-related infectious diseases are explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5286-5298
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Bacterial evolution
  • Biofilm matrix
  • Drug discovery
  • EDNA
  • Infection control
  • Natural products
  • Opportunistic pathogens
  • Quorum sensing
  • Unculturable microorganisms


Dive into the research topics of 'Antibiotic discovery: combatting bacterial resistance in cells and in biofilm communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this