Enzyme responsive copolymer micelles enhance the anti-biofilm efficacy of the antiseptic chlorhexidine.


School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia; ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]


Staphylococcal biofilms cause many infectious diseases and are highly tolerant to the effects of antimicrobials; this is partly due to the biofilm matrix, which acts as a physical barrier retarding the penetration and reducing susceptibility to antimicrobials, thereby decreasing successful treatment outcomes. In this study, both single and mixed micellar systems based on poly vinyl caprolactam (PCL)-polyethylene glycol (PEG) copolymers were optimised for delivery of chlorhexidine (CHX) to S. aureus, MRSA and S. epidermidis biofilms and evaluated for their toxicity using Caenorhabditis elegans. The respective polyethylene glycol (PEG) and poly vinyl caprolactam (PCL) structural components promoted stealth properties and enzymatic responsive release of CHX inside biofilms, leading to significantly enhanced penetration (56%) compared with free CHX and improving the efficacy against Staphylococcus aureus biofilms grown on an artificial dermis (2.4 log reduction of CFU). Mixing Soluplus-based micelles with Solutol further enhanced the CHX penetration (71%) and promoted maximum reduction in biofilm biomass (>60%). Nematodes-based toxicity assay showed micelles with no lethal effects as indicated by their high survival rate (100%) after 72 h exposure. This study thus demonstrated that bio-responsive carriers can be designed to deliver a poorly water-soluble antimicrobial agent and advance the control of biofilm associated infections.