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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Virstatin inhibits biofilm formation and motility of Acinetobacter baumannii

Yassine Nait Chabane12, Mohamed Ben Mlouka12, Stéphane Alexandre12, Marion Nicol12, Sara Marti12, Martine Pestel-Caron13, Jordi Vila4, Thierry Jouenne12 and Emmanuelle Dé12*

Author Affiliations

1 Normandie University, Caen, France

2 Laboratory “Polymères, Biopolymères, Surfaces”, UMR 6270 & FR 3038 CNRS, IRIB, University of Rouen, Mont-Saint-Aignan, Cedex 76821, France

3 University of Rouen, Rouen University Hospital, GRAM, Rouen, EA 2656, France

4 Department of Microbiology, Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain

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BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:62  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-62

Published: 12 March 2014



Acinetobacter baumannii has emerged as an opportunistic nosocomial pathogen causing infections worldwide. One reason for this emergence is due to its natural ability to survive in the hospital environment, which may be explained by its capacity to form biofilms. Cell surface appendages are important determinants of the A. baumannii biofilm formation and as such constitute interesting targets to prevent the development of biofilm-related infections. A chemical agent called virstatin was recently described to impair the virulence of Vibrio cholerae by preventing the expression of its virulence factor, the toxin coregulated pilus (type IV pilus). The objective of this work was to investigate the potential effect of virstatin on A. baumannii biofilms.


After a dose–response experiment, we determined that 100 μM virstatin led to an important decrease (38%) of biofilms formed by A. baumannii ATCC17978 grown under static mode. We demonstrated that the production of biofilms grown under dynamic mode was also delayed and reduced. The biofilm susceptibility to virstatin was then tested for 40 clinical and reference A. baumannii strains. 70% of the strains were susceptible to virstatin (with a decrease of 10 to 65%) when biofilms grew in static mode, whereas 60% of strains respond to the treatment when their biofilms grew in dynamic mode. As expected, motility and atomic force microscopy experiments showed that virstatin acts on the A. baumannii pili biogenesis.


By its action on pili biogenesis, virstatin demonstrated a very promising antibiofilm activity affecting more than 70% of the A. baumannii clinical isolates.

Pellicle; Protein-protein interactions; Type IV pili; Virstatin