Microplate alamar blue assay for Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilm susceptibility testing

Robin Pettit, Christine A. Weber, Melissa J. Kean, Holger Hoffmann, George Pettit, Rui Tan, Kelly S. Franks, Marilyn L. Horton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

285 Scopus citations


Biofilms are at the root of many infections largely because they are much more antibiotic resistant than their planktonic counterparts. Antibiotics that target the biofilm phenotype are desperately needed, but there is still no standard method to assess biofilm drug susceptibility. Staphylococcus epidermidis ATCC 35984 biofilms treated with eight different approved antibiotics and five different experimental compounds were exposed to the oxidation reduction indicator Alamar blue for 60 min, and reduction relative to untreated controls was determined visually and spectrophotometrically. The minimum biofilm inhibitory concentration was defined as ≤50% reduction and a purplish well 60 min after the addition of Alamar blue. All of the approved antibiotics had biofilm MICs (MBICs) of >512 μg/ml (most >4,096 μg/ml), and four of the experimental compounds had MBICs of ≤128 μg/ml. The experimental aaptamine derivative hystatin 3 was used to correlate Alamar blue reduction with 2,3-bis(2-methoxy-4-nitro-5-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium-5- carboxanilide (XTT) reduction and viable counts (CFU/ml) for S. epidermidis ATCC 35984, ATCC 12228, and two clinical isolates. For all four strains, Alamar blue results correlated well with XTT (r = 0.83 to 0.97) and with CFU/ml results (r = 0.85 to 0.94). Alamar blue's stability and lack of toxicity allowed CFU/ml to be determined from the same wells as Alamar blue absorbances. If the described method of microplate Alamar blue biofilm susceptibility testing, which is simple, reproducible, cost-effective, nontoxic, and amenable to high throughput, is applicable to other important biofilm forming species, it should greatly facilitate the discovery of biofilm specific agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2612-2617
Number of pages6
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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