Biofilm. 2023 Jan 9;5:100103. doi: 10.1016/j.bioflm.2022.100103. eCollection 2023 Dec.
Biofilms are found in many infections in the forms of surface-adhering aggregates on medical devices, small clumps in tissues, or even in synovial fluid. Although antibiotic resistance genes are studied and monitored in the clinic, the structural and phenotypic changes that take place in biofilms can also lead to significant changes in how bacteria respond to antibiotics. Therefore, it is important to better understand the relationship between biofilm phenotypes and resistance and develop approaches that are compatible with clinical testing. Current methods for studying antimicrobial susceptibility are mostly planktonic or planar biofilm reactors. In this work, we develop a new type of biofilm reactor-three-dimensional (3D) microreactors-to recreate biofilms in a microenvironment that better mimics those in vivo where bacteria tend to form surface-independent biofilms in living tissues. The microreactors are formed on microplates, treated with antibiotics of 1000 times of the corresponding minimal inhibitory concentrations (1000 × MIC), and monitored spectroscopically with a microplate reader in a high-throughput manner. The hydrogels are dissolvable on demand without the need for manual scraping, thus enabling measurements of phenotypic changes. Bacteria inside the biofilm microreactors are found to survive exposure to 1000 × MIC of antibiotics, and subsequent comparison with plating results reveals no antibiotic resistance-associated phenotypes. The presented microreactor offers an attractive platform to study the tolerance and antibiotic resistance of surface-independent biofilms such as those found in tissues.