JMM Editor’s Choice: an in vitro model for Mycobacterium pneumoniae infection

Posted on February 22, 2021   by Microbiology Society

This month, Associate Professor Rikke Mayer discusses “Modelling persistent Mycoplasma pneumoniae biofilm infections in a submerged BEAS-2B bronchial epithelial tissue culture model”, which was chosen as Editor’s Choice for the December issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

In vitro models are widely used to study the biology of pathogens. However, most models lack an important component: the host. In this study, Feng and colleagues developed a tissue model with human bronchial epithelial cells to study the biofilm formation and antibiotic tolerance of Mycobacterium pneumoniae. They found that M. pneumoniae biofilms arose from pre-existing aggregates and suggested that such aggregates are important for spreading the infection to other locations. Tissue models that incorporate elements of the immune system set a good example of balancing the convenience of in vitro models with the need to mimic the host environment to study the biology of important pathogens”. 

Modelling persistent Mycoplasma pneumoniae biofilm infections in a submerged BEAS-2B bronchial epithelial tissue culture model 

Mycoplasma pneumoniae causes respiratory disease and is difficult to eliminate, even with antibiotics. During growth in the laboratory, these bacteria initially produce large amounts of toxic molecules, but then form multicellular biofilms that cause less damage. In this article, Feng et al. show that M. pneumoniae grows on respiratory tract cells in the form of biofilms that are remarkably resistant to antibiotics and immune system attack. From this work, the authors predict that during infection, M. pneumoniae grows as protective biofilms that produce individual, toxic bacteria. The work highlights biofilms as important targets for treatment of chronic M. pneumoniae infection.