Research in Focus: Biofilm Formation in Acinetobacter baumannii

As part of #BiofilmWeek, we’re highlighting interesting and exciting biofilm research being undertaken across our NBIC partner research institutions by early career researchers, PhD students and our Interdisciplinary Research Fellows.

We interviewed Lyuboslava Harkova, a Doctoral Researcher at the McCarthy Lab and Brunel University London to learn more about her research, which focuses on the regulators of biofilm formation in a human opportunistic pathogen called Acinetobacter baumannii.

Tell us about your area of research and how it links to AMR and biofilms?

A. baumannii predominantly causes hospital acquired infections, and its chronic infections are predominantly caused by the formation of biofilms. Biofilms are three dimensional microbial communities which protect the microbes within them from the environment. A. baumannii rose to prominence in the past 20 years due to its extensive resistance to almost all antibiotics that we currently have. Nowadays, it’s been classed by the World Health Organization as a number one priority pathogen to which we urgently need novel antimicrobials or antibiotics.

Biofilms contribute to antimicrobial resistance in a few different ways. From one point of view, they provide extra shield for the bacterial cells by physically preventing antimicrobials and antibiotics to get to the bacterial cells and kill them. Also, bacteria in the biofilms share nutrient resources and are in close proximity to each other so they can exchange DNA, including resistance genes, which help them withstand antibiotic pressures.

Therapy Urinary Tract Infections
Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria. 

What unmet need do you hope your work will address?

So despite knowing that A. baumannii is such an important pathogen, there is still a huge gap in our knowledge of how this pathogen forms its biofilms, which is obviously really important in terms of infections. So here at Brunel University, we are researching the regulators responsible for this process.

We hope this will contribute to an increased knowledge of this fundamental aspect of microbiology. The more we know about the regulators of biofilm formation in this pathogen, the easier it will be for us to find disruptors, and hence discover novel antimicrobials and novel treatments for potentially life-threatening infections.

Have you undertaken any public engagement and outreach activities?

Recently I was at the New Scientist Live event in London as part of the NBIC team. This gave me the opportunity to talk to people from all walks of life about my research. A highlight from the event was talking to non-scientists about my work and seeing their understanding of the importance of my research in the area of biofilms and human health and how this is all related.

How has NBIC supported you in your career?

Apart from giving me the opportunity to take part in outreach events and activities, NBIC has provided me with opportunities to meet fellow doctoral researchers as well as other academics from different institutions across the UK. This is extremely valuable in terms of being able to exchange information and discuss different ideas. Also, I’m sure that the network which NBIC and its partners provide will inevitably help me to establish collaborations and this is really important for my future career development.

Find out more

If you are interested in learning more about this project and would like to connect with Lyuboslava please contact NBIC at


Lyuboslava Harkova, Doctoral Researcher, Brunel University London. 

Doctoral Training Centre Katie Roe