Researchers have isolated an enzyme from Bacillus licheniformis found on the surface of seaweed to develop a nasal spray to help clear sinusitis.
They have described how in many cases of chronic sinusitis the bacteria form a biofilm, a slimy protective barrier that can protect them from sprays or antibiotics.
In vitro experiments showed that the enzyme, called NucB dispersed 58 percent of biofilms.
"In effect, the enzyme breaks down the extracellular DNA, which is acting like a glue to hold the cells to the surface of the sinuses. In the lab, NucB cleared over half of the organisms we tested," said Dr Nicholas Jakubovics of Newcastle University.
In the research, the team collected mucous and sinus biopsy samples from 20 different patients and isolated between two and six different species of bacteria from each individual. 24 different strains were investigated in the laboratory and all produced biofilms containing significant amounts of extracellular DNA. Biofilms formed by 14 strains were disrupted by treatment with the novel bacterial deoxyribonuclease, NucB.
When under threat, bacteria shield themselves in a slimy protective barrier. This slimy layer, known as a biofilm, is made up of bacteria held together by a web of extracellular DNA that adheres the bacteria to each other and to a solid surface - in this case in the lining of the sinuses.
The biofilm protects the bacteria from attack by antibiotics and makes it very difficult to clear them from the sinuses.
In previous studies of the marine bacterium Bacillus licheniformis, Newcastle University scientists led by marine microbiologist Professor Grant Burgess found that when the bacteria want to move on, they release an enzyme which breaks down the external DNA, breaking up the biofilm and releasing the bacteria from the web.
When the enzyme NucB was purified and added to other biofilms it quickly dissolved the slime exposing the bacterial cells, leaving them vulnerable.
The team's next step is to further test and develop the product and they are looking to set up collaboration with industry.
Their work has been published in PLOS ONE.