Role of swarming in the formation of crystalline Proteus mirabilis biofilms on urinary catheters

Brian V Jones, E Mahenthiralingam, N A Sabbuba, D J Stickler
Journal of Medical Microbiology 2005, 54: 807-13
The care of many patients undergoing long-term bladder catheterization is frequently complicated by infection with Proteus mirabilis. These organisms colonize the catheter, forming surface biofilm communities, and their urease activity generates alkaline conditions under which crystals of magnesium ammonium phosphate and calcium phosphate are formed and become trapped in the biofilm. As the biofilm develops it obstructs the flow of urine through the catheter, causing either incontinence due to leakage of urine around the catheter or retention of urine in the bladder. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of the surface-associated swarming motility of P. mirabilis in the initiation and development of these crystalline catheter biofilms. A set of stable transposon mutants with a range of swimming and swarming abilities were tested for their ability to colonize silicone surfaces in a parallel-plate flow cell. A laboratory model of the catheterized bladder was then used to examine their ability to form crystalline, catheter-blocking biofilms. The results showed that neither swarming nor swimming motility was required for the attachment of P. mirabilis to silicone. Mutants deficient in swarming and swimming were also capable of forming crystalline biofilms and blocking catheters more rapidly than the wild-type strain.

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