In vitro models that mimic in vivo host-pathogen interactions are needed to evaluate candidate drugs that inhibit bacterial virulence traits. We established a new approach to study Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm susceptibility on biotic surfaces, using a three-dimensional (3-D) lung epithelial cell model. P. aeruginosa formed antibiotic resistant biofilms on 3-D cells without affecting cell viability. The biofilm-inhibitory activity of antibiotics and/or the anti-biofilm peptide DJK-5 were evaluated on 3-D cells compared to a plastic surface, in medium with and without fetal bovine serum (FBS). In both media, aminoglycosides were more efficacious in the 3-D cell model. In serum-free medium, most antibiotics (except polymyxins) showed enhanced efficacy when 3-D cells were present. In medium with FBS, colistin was less efficacious in the 3-D cell model. DJK-5 exerted potent inhibition of P. aeruginosa association with both substrates, only in serum-free medium. DJK-5 showed stronger inhibitory activity against P. aeruginosa associated with plastic compared to 3-D cells. The combined addition of tobramycin and DJK-5 exhibited more potent ability to inhibit P. aeruginosa association with both substrates. In conclusion, lung epithelial cells influence the efficacy of most antimicrobials against P. aeruginosa biofilm formation, which in turn depends on the presence or absence of FBS.
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