Background: Microbes attach to surfaces and form biofilms where they are difficult to
eradicate. Here they are embedded in a complex matrix of polymers and are much less sensitive
against antibiotics or the immune system.
Objective: This is a growing problem, especially for implants; hence, novel approaches are urgently
needed to control biofilm infections.
Methods: Many of these approaches interfere with the communication between the microbial cells
required for biofilm formation and maintenance, a process known as quorum sensing. But microbes
have also several mechanisms to disperse their own biofilms if conditions become unfavourable.
Results: Recently, it has been found that the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa disperses its mature
biofilms using cis-2-decenoic acid. This fatty acid belongs to a group of cis-2-alkenoic acids which
are known from several bacteria and are also triggering the communication between different species.
In this review the biosynthesis of these compounds, their signal transduction and their role in
species-species communication are presented. Examples are discussed where cis-2-alkenoic acids
have been used to eradicate biofilms and enhance the sensitivity of pathogens against antibiotics, either
alone or in combination with antibiotics.
Conclusion: This presents an interesting approach for the control of biofilm infections but it is still
in its infancy and a much broader characterization of the effects of cis-2-alkenoic acids are needed
before moving to any medical application.