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The Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Research of Nehal I. Abu-Lail

Biofilms’ Contributions to Multidrug Resistance (MDR)

⬅ Back to Dr. Abu-Lail’s List of Research Projects


  1. Increased MDR
  2. Lack of understanding of biofilm role in MDR and how do bacteria vary in their MDR with phylogenetic and virulence


Quantify bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation in the presence of antibiotics.


Better control of MDR biofilms


Venn diagram (Outside circles: Virulence, Genetics, MDR - overlapping; Center circle: Biofilm)
Experimental design

Streaking, Inoculation, Culture in LB, Culture in M9, Staining, Quantification
Biofilms’ experiment
Laser beam bounced off cantilever to photodiode detector used to analyse sample
AFM experiments of bacterial adhesion


  • Multidrug resistance (MDR) assay
  • Minimal inhibitory concentration
  • Pathogenicity assay
  • Phylogenetic grouping
  • AFM of interactions between β-lactam antibiotics and E. coli

Research Details

The report of the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2013 estimated that at least two million people get antibiotic-resistant infections yearly and more than 23,000 die as a result of such infections. There have been ongoing national efforts to combat multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria and prevent further emergence and spread of new MDR strains. These efforts included regulation of antibiotics prescriptions and improvement of environmental sanitation and hygiene measures. However, the main reason for growing multidrug-resistance globally is incontestably connected to the overuse and abuse of antibacterial drugs.

Our ability to envisage and fight MDR bacteria is still limited due to complex and interdependent mechanisms associated with their resistance to drugs. These mechanisms include biofilm formation, development of efflux pumps and impermeable cell wall, modification of targets sites, and inactivation of antibiotics. The diversity of the resistance mechanisms microbes employ towards antibiotics have created complications in the management of infectious diseases because physicians have to confront severe infections caused by MDR bacterial strains with all available antibacterial drugs. As such, molecular investigations of the variable mechanisms leading to MDR development are needed in order for us to develop better means to combat MDR from spreading based on drug interactions.

In our lab, we seek to better understand the types of interactions present between MDR Escherichia coli cell wall and β-lactams’ antibiotics. Further, the effects of β-lactams on the physicochemical properties of bacterial cells such as adhesion, mechanical properties, mechanics of surface biopolymers are being investigated. Understanding the mechanisms of MDR could lead to improving therapeutic strategies of current β-lactams’ antibiotics with reducing resistance, and controlling the emergence and spread of new MDR strains.