Staphylococcus epidermidis is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections particularly on indwelling medical devices and implants. Infections caused by this pathogen are difficult to treat with standard antimicrobial agents mainly as the bacterium can establish biofilms on artificial surfaces. Novel control methods are needed and one such alternative may be bacteriocins; these are antimicrobial peptides produced by some bacteria that inhibit other specific bacteria. They are potent, safe, and stable and are easy to produce using biotechnological based strategies. Additionally, as they are gene encoded they can be easily modified or engineered to enhance their activity. In the present study, we demonstrate the ability of the bacteriocin nisin to inhibit a collection of clinical S. epidermidis strains under standard laboratory conditions. In addition, a bank of bioengineered nisin derivatives was screened using agar-based deferred antagonism assays and derivatives with enhanced antimicrobial activity compared to the wild-type nisin were identified. These derivative peptides are currently being purified using a combination of chromatography-based approaches and their potency and stability are being examined. Future experiments will focus on examining the ability of the nisin derivatives in inhibiting S. epidermidis biofilms on medical device materials (e.g. stainless steel and polyvinyl chloride) both alone and in combination with conventional antibiotics. It is hoped that one of the nisin derivatives analysed in this study may ultimately be used to control or prevent infections caused by S. epidermidis.


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