The emergence of drug-resistant fungi has prompted an urgent threat alert from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Biofilm assembly by these pathogens further impairs effective therapy. We recently identified an antifungal, turbinmicin, that inhibits the fungal vesicle–mediated trafficking pathway and demonstrates broad-spectrum activity against planktonically growing fungi. During biofilm growth, vesicles with unique features play a critical role in the delivery of biofilm extracellular matrix components. As these components are largely responsible for the drug resistance associated with biofilm growth, we explored the utility of turbinmicin in the biofilm setting. We found that turbinmicin disrupted extracellular vesicle (EV) delivery during biofilm growth and that this impaired the subsequent assembly of the biofilm matrix. We demonstrated that elimination of the extracellular matrix rendered the drug-resistant biofilm communities susceptible to fungal killing by turbinmicin. Furthermore, the addition of turbinmicin to otherwise ineffective antifungal therapy potentiated the activity of these drugs. The underlying role of vesicles explains this dramatic activity and was supported by phenotype reversal with the addition of exogenous biofilm EVs. This striking capacity to cripple biofilm assembly mechanisms reveals a new approach to eradicating biofilms and sheds light on turbinmicin as a promising anti-biofilm drug.
Miao Zhao, Fan Zhang, Robert Zarnowski, Kenneth Barns, Ryley Jones, Jen Fossen, Hiram Sanchez, Scott R. Rajski, Anjon Audhya, Tim S. Bugni, David R. Andes