Gonococcal Cervicitis: A Role for Biofilm in Pathogenesis

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Abstract

Neisseria gonorrhoeae forms a biofilm in flow cells on glass coverslips as well as on primary cervical epithelial cells. Electron microscopic studies of cervical biopsy specimens from 10 patients with culture-proven N. gonorrhoeae infection revealed evidence of biofilm formation in 3 of the biopsy specimens. These biofilms showed gonococci in networks of bacterial membrane within the biofilm structure. This finding was also observed in biofilms formed over glass cover slips and after infection of primary cervical tissue in vitro. The importance of membranous networks in Neisseria biofilm formation was demonstrated with N. gonorrhoeae strain 1291-msbB, which shows a markedly decreased ability to bleb. This mutant formed significantly less biofilm over glass surfaces and cervical epithelial cells, and complementation showed reversion to wild-type biofilms. Gonoccal biofilms, as part of the cervical infection, may be involved in the mechanisms by which asymptomatic infections, persistence, and increased antibiotic resistance occur.

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