Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/03/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics

First Advisor

Fiegel, Jennifer

First Committee Member

Wurster, Dale E

Second Committee Member

Salem, Aliasger K

Third Committee Member

Brogden, Nicole

Fourth Committee Member

Nuxoll, Eric E


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a hereditary multi-organ disorder characterized by formation of thick, viscous mucus in the lungs, leading to decreased fluid clearance and significant bacterial colonization. The bacteria form colonies, called biofilms, that are attached to the mucosal surface and produce a protective polymeric matrix. The matrix helps the biofilms form stable structures in the lungs while also protecting the embedded bacterial colonies from the host defense system and antimicrobials. Pseudomonas aeruginosa are opportunistic bacteria that commonly infect CF airways in the biofilm form. Current antibiotic treatment regimens fail to completely eradicate these biofilms, leading to chronic, persistent infections that over time lead to patient death. Therefore, there is a need to investigate antibacterial strategies that would completely eradicate these infections at reasonable doses and improve quality of patients’ lives.

In this thesis, two strategies are investigated to better eradicate bacterial colonies – (1) the use of nutrient dispersion compounds for increasing the susceptibility of biofilm bacteria to the co-administered antibiotics, and (2) PEGylation of antimicrobial peptides to increase peptide retention in the lung airways.

Clinical strains of P. aeruginosa isolated from lungs of CF patients were used in this research to better mimic the greater robustness of clinical biofilms compared to biofilms of laboratory bacterial strains. Growth curve studies were carried out to characterize the growth patterns of the bacterial strains. Antibiotic susceptibility of the planktonic (free-flowing) bacteria was studied using the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) assay. A method to grow and characterize 1-day and 4-day old biofilms in the minimum biofilm eradication concentration (MBEC) assay apparatus was developed and characterized. The MBECs of combination formulations consisting of an antibiotic and a nutrient dispersion compound for different treatment durations were measured against biofilms of the clinical isolates using four commonly used antibiotics, and sodium citrate as the nutrient dispersion compound.

The growth curve studies allowed for better understanding of the clinical isolates’ growth rates in vitro, which could play an important role on their susceptibility to antibiotics. All bacterial strains displayed susceptibility to tobramycin sulfate and ciprofloxacin hydrochloride. Uniform bacterial growth was observed for 1-day old biofilms of both clinical isolates across all pegs. Growing 4-day old biofilms using 100% MHB without refreshing the bacterial suspension over 4 days gave uniform biofilm bacterial growth across the pegs. Four-day old biofilms displayed greater biomass than 1-day old biofilms for 2 out of 3 bacterial strains. Combination formulations eradicated 1-day and 4-day old biofilms at lower antibiotic concentrations than the antibiotic alone, with further improvement in eradication after increasing the duration of treatment. Sodium citrate did not enhance the metabolic activity of the biofilm bacteria.

The antimicrobial peptide CaLL was conjugated with different MW polyethylene glycol (PEG) molecules using disulfide and maleimide linkages, and the effect of PEGylation on its antibacterial activity against P. aeruginosa laboratory strain PAO1 was evaluated. PEGylation was observed to reduce bacterial growth inhibition by CaLL, with the disulfide-linked CaLL-PEG less efficacious than the maleimide-linked CaLL-PEG. Time-kill assays demonstrated the longer duration of action of PEGylated peptides compared to non-PEGylated peptides, probably due to prevention of enzymatic degradation of the peptide by the PEG molecule.

This research will shed light on antibacterial strategies for complete and rapid eradication of bacterial biofilms, thereby reducing development of antibiotic resistance and prevent recurrence of infection, reducing progressive lung damage caused in people with CF, and improve their quality of life.


Antimicrobial peptides, Biofilms, Nutrient dispersion, Pseudomonas aeruginosa


xvii, 183 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 158-183).


Copyright © 2018 Sachin Gharse