is a major causative agent of nosocomial infections, mainly associated with the use of indwelling devices, on which this bacterium forms structures known as biofilms. Due to biofilms’ high tolerance to antibiotics, virulent bacteriophages were previously tested as novel therapeutic agents. However, several staphylococcal bacteriophages were shown to be inefficient against biofilms. In this study, the previously characterized S. epidermidis
phiIBB-SEP1 (SEP1), which has a broad spectrum and high activity against planktonic cells, was evaluated concerning its efficacy against S. epidermidis
biofilms. The in vitro biofilm killing assays demonstrated a reduced activity of the phage. To understand the underlying factors impairing SEP1 inefficacy against biofilms, this phage was tested against distinct planktonic and biofilm-derived bacterial populations. Interestingly, SEP1 was able to lyse planktonic cells in different physiological states, suggesting that the inefficacy for biofilm control resulted from the biofilm 3D structure and the protective effect of the matrix. To assess the impact of the biofilm architecture on phage predation, SEP1 was tested in disrupted biofilms resulting in a 2 orders-of-magnitude reduction in the number of viable cells after 6 h of infection. The interaction between SEP1 and the biofilm matrix was further assessed by the addition of matrix to phage particles. Results showed that the matrix did not inactivate phages nor affected phage adsorption. Moreover, confocal laser scanning microscopy data demonstrated that phage infected cells were less predominant in the biofilm regions where the matrix was more abundant. Our results provide compelling evidence indicating that the biofilm matrix can work as a barrier, allowing the bacteria to be hindered from phage infection.
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