Biofilm: What is it? Can enzymes or herbs help?

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“Microorganisms attach to surfaces and develop biofilms … Biofilms have great importance for public health because of their role in certain infectious diseases and importance in a variety of device-related infections. A greater understanding of biofilm processes should lead to novel, effective control strategies for biofilm control and a resulting improvement in patient management …A biofilm is an assemblage of surface-associated microbial cells that is enclosed in an extracellular polymeric substance matrix … Several studies have shown that treatment of adsorbed cells with proteolytic enzymes caused a marked release of attached bacteria” [1].

“Biofilmaccounts for 65-80 % of microbial infections in humans” [2].

“Candida albicans … cells proliferate in a planktonic (suspension) state, but they also form biofilms, organized and tightly packed communities of cells attached to a solid surface. Biofilmscolonize many niches of the human body and persist on implanted medical devices, where they are a major source of new C. albicans infections” [3].

“Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most important causes of morbidity and health care spending affecting persons of all ages. Bacterial biofilms play an important role in UTIs, responsible for persistent infections leading to recurrences and relapses” [4].

Betagluconase is an enzyme that breaks down beta-glucans, a substance that has been implicated with bacterial caused biofilm plaque [5]. Furthermore, glucanaseand protease, degraded fungal cell walls to clear up biofilm [6].

Bilberry is a plant rich in antioxidants known as anthocyanins and polyphenols. “Urease-producing bacteria are known to produce crystalline biofilms and encrustation on catheters” and bilberry is a plant extracted urease-inhibitor, hence can be helpful to deal with biofilm and UTIs [4].

Black Walnut hull “is widely used in traditional medicine for alleviating pain and treating skin diseases” [7]. It has antioxidant properties [7] and has also long been used in traditional medicine as a blood purifier [8] and to treat parasites.

Cellulase is anenzyme that helps break down cellulose. The cell walls of fungi, including Candida, is made of cellulose. Cellulase can “Break down harmful microbial biofilms … In vitrostudies show that the cellulase enzyme can stop the growth and increase the breakdown of biofilms produced by the bacteria Pseudomonas. This may help detoxify the intestinal tract, as well as the body’s major organ systems … Other tests found an improvement in immune function for the patients. Furthermore, when the enzyme supplement was withdrawn, the positive benefits ended” [9].

DPP IV(“DPP 4”) is the acronym for the enzyme Dipeptidyl Peptidase IV. It has been found to inhibit bacterial caused biofilm [10]. DPPIV has gluten-detoxification abilities [11].

Echinacea Echinacea purpurea can help prevent viral and other infections and seems to reduce types of biofilm [9].

Endopeptidase is a proteolytic enzyme that breaks peptide bonds other than terminal ones in a peptide chain. Exopeptidase is any peptidase that catalyzes the cleavage of the terminal (or the penultimate) peptide bond; the process releases a single amino acid or dipeptide from the peptide chain.“A peptidaseis a catalytically active protein that cleaves one or more peptide bonds in a protein or peptide by hydrolysis” [12].

GarlicAllium sativahas antimicrobial properties [9]. Allicin from garlic has been shown to inhibit infectious biofilm [13].

Glucoamylase are inverting exo-acting starch hydrolases/enzymes releasing β-glucose from the non-reducing ends of starch and related substrates. “Glucoamylase, when combined with other enzymes may ease the negative effects of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) … Studies show that glucoamylase combined with other enzymes can promote a normal autoimmunity response. In the case of autoimmune disorders, antigens, and antibodies, when not cleared out over time, can create tissue damage in the body” [14]. Hence, glucoamylase can help in detoxification.

Goldenseal Hydrastis Canadensiscontains berberine “Berberine has broad-spectrum antibiotic activity … and immune-enhancing properties. … Berberine has shown antimicrobial activity against bacteria, protozoa, and fungi … Berberine, a constituent of goldenseal, when used to treat urinary tract infections, is known to reduce synthesis of Escherichia colifimbrae, thus preventing adhesion to the bladder lining” [9]. “Berberine has been … found to reduce biofilm [15].

Grapefruit Seed Extract has certain antimicrobial properties [16,17]. It seems to help prevent biofilm when used with other substances [18].

Hemicellulase is an enzyme which “breaks down hemicellulose, which is a type of cellulose and a key component of the cell wall in all plants … Some research suggests that an increase in this enzyme can help prevent and reduce yeast infestations such as Candida. This is perhaps related to the fact that the cell wall of candida is composed of hemicellulose” [19].

Lysozyme is an enzymecatalyzes the breakdown of some carbohydrates found in the cell walls of certain bacteria that can reduce biofilm [20]. Lysozyme has been shown to inhibit Candida biofilm [21].

Milk Thistle Silybin marianum “has been shown to have a positive hepatoprotective effect in the treatment of liver cirrhosis associated with alcohol or viruses” [9]. Silymarin (a constituent of Milk Thistle) seems to have inhibitory effects on bacterial biofilm [22].

Pectinase is an enzymethat breaks down pectin, a polysaccharide found in plant cell walls. It also helps inhibit bacterial biofilm [23].

Proteolytic enzymeslike various peptidases and proteases have been shown to reduce bacterial [e.g.24] and fungal biofilm [e.g. 1,3].

Serrapeptase Serratia pepitase is a proteolytic enzyme. Its use as a biofilm buster has been speculated for Lyme disease [25]. It has also been claimed to reduce toxins associated with Alzheimer’s disease [26].

Shiitake MushroomCang Er Zi has positive immune-enhancing [27] and anti biofilm properties [28].

 Wild OreganoOrganum vulgare has “antibacterial and antifungal activity” as well as antiparasitic effects [9]. Its constituent carvacral has antibiofilm effects against pathogens such as Escherichia coli [29].

Naturopathic philosophy teaches that one is susceptible to infection if one there is an accumulation of toxins that the body does not eliminate which makes an environment that infections can thrive in [30-32]. Biofilms are such an environment.

Even those not interested in natural health realize that biofilm is a major cause of infectious disease.

Herbs and enzymes are “novel approaches’ that more health care professionals may wish to try.


[1] Donlan RM. Biofilms: Microbial Life on Surfaces. Emerg Infect Dis. 2002 Sep; 8(9): 881–89
[2] Aynapudi J, et al. Involvement of signal peptidase I in Streptococcus sanguinis biofilm formation. Microbiology. 2017 Sep;163(9):1306-1318
[3] Winter MB, et al. Global Identification of Biofilm-Specific Proteolysis in Candida albicans. MBio. 2016 Sep 13;7(5). pii: e01514-16
[4] Delcaru C, et al. Microbial Biofilms in Urinary Tract Infections and Prostatitis: Etiology, Pathogenicity, and Combating strategies. Pathogens. 2016 Dec; 5(4): 65

[5] Honma K, Ruscitto A, Sharma A. β-glucanase activity of the oral bacterium Tannerella forsythia contributes to the growth of a partner species, Fusobacterium nucleatum, in co-biofilms. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2017 Oct 27. pii: AEM.01759-17

[6] Ni M, et al. Identification and comprehensive evaluation of a novel biocontrol agent Bacillus atrophaeus JZB120050. J Environ Sci Health B. 2018 Sep 10:1-9

[7] Meshkini A1, Tahmasbi M. Antiplatelet Aggregation Activity of Walnut Hull Extract via Suppression of Reactive Oxygen Species Generation and Caspase Activation. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2017 Jun;10(3):193-203
[8] Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenick C, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicine, 4thedition. Thomson, 2007

[9] Group E. The Health Benefits of Cellulase. Global Healing Center, June 19, 2018

[10] De A, et al. Antidiabetic “gliptins” affect biofilm formation by Streptococcus mutans. Microbiol Res. 2018 Apr;209:79-85

[11] Ehren J, et al. A food-grade enzyme preparation with modest gluten detoxification properties. PLoS One. 2009 Jul 21;4(7):e6313

[12] RawlingsND, Barrett AJ. Peptidases. Wiley ELS, Published online: July 2014

[13] Ranjbar-Omid M, et al. Allicin from garlic inhibits the biofilm formation and urease activity of Proteus mirabilis in vitro. FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2015 May;362(9)pii: fnv049

[14] Group E. The Health Benefits of Glucoamylase. Global Healing Center, June 19, 2018
[15] da Silva AR, et al. Berberine Antifungal Activity in Fluconazole-Resistant Pathogenic Yeasts: Action Mechanism Evaluated by Flow Cytometry and Biofilm Growth Inhibition in Candida spp. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2016 May 23;60(6):3551-7
[16] Kanmani P1, Rhim JW. Antimicrobial and physical-mechanical properties of agar-based films incorporated with grapefruit seed extract. Carbohydr Polym. 2014 Feb 15;102:708-1

[17] Choi JS, et al. Antibacterial effect of grapefruit seed extract (GSE) on Makgeolli-brewing microorganisms and its application in the preservation of fresh Makgeolli. J Food Sci. 2014 Jun;79(6):M1159-67

[18] Kim JH, Hong WS, Oh SW. Effect of layer-by-layer antimicrobial edible coating of alginate and chitosan with grapefruit seed extract for shelf-life extension of shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) stored at 4 °C. Int J Biol Macromol. 2018 Dec;120(Pt B):1468-1473

[19] Group E. The Health Benefits of Hemicellulase. Global Healing Center, October 5, 2015

[20] Hou Y, et al. Lysozyme Associated Liposomal Gentamicin Inhibits Bacteria. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Apr 9;18(4). pii: E784

[21] Sebaa S, Hizette N, Boucherit-Otmani Z, Courtois P. Dose‑dependent effect of lysozyme upon Candida albicans biofilm. Mol Med Rep. 2017 Mar;15(3):1135-1142

[22] Vimberg V, et al. Hydnocarpin-Type Flavonolignans: Semisynthesis and Inhibitory Effects on Staphylococcus aureus Biofilm Formation. J Nat Prod. 2015 Aug 28;78(8):2095-103

[23] Villa F, Secundo F, Polo A, Cappitelli F. Immobilized Hydrolytic Enzymes Exhibit Antibiofilm Activity Against Escherichia coli at Sub-Lethal Concentrations. Curr Microbiol. 2015 Jul;71(1):106-14

[24] Shukla SK, Rao TS. Staphylococcus aureus biofilm removal by targeting biofilm-associated extracellular proteins. Indian J Med Res. 2017 Jul;146(Supplement):S1-S8

[25] Lacout A. Biofilms busters to improve the detection of Borrelia using PCR. Med Hypotheses. 2018 Mar;112:4-6

[26] Fadl NN, Ahmed HH, Booles HF, Sayed AH. Serrapeptase and nattokinase intervention for relieving Alzheimer’s disease pathophysiology in rat model. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2013 Jul;32(7):721-35

[27] Vetvicka V, Vetvickova J. Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts. Ann Transl Med. 2014 Feb;2(2):14

[28] Papetti A, et al. Components in Lentinus edodes mushroom with anti-biofilm activity directed against bacteria involved in caries and gingivitis. Food Funct. 2018 Jun 20;9(6):3489-3499

[29] Lee JH, Kim YG, Lee J. Carvacrol-rich oregano oil and thymol-rich thyme red oil inhibit biofilm formation and the virulence of uropathogenic Escherichia coli. J Appl Microbiol. 2017 Dec;123(6):1420-1428

[30] Tilden JK. Toxemia Explained. Life Science Institute reprint. Written circa 1926

[31] Cordingley EW. Principles and Practices of Naturopathy. Health Research reprint. Written 1924

[32] Thiel R. Naturopathy for the 21stCentury. Whitman Books, 2011.

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