Dr. Heuertz is a basic science researcher studying the medical importance of bacterial biofilms. Towards this end, she develops assays for biofilm identification, assessment and quantitation and determines effects of nutrients, phytochemicals and innate immune responses on biofilm.
Current Research Project
- Development of simple, cost-effective assays for biofilm quantitation and anti-biofilm assessment for routine clinical laboratory use
- Effect of plant-derived compounds on bacterial growth and biofilm formation
(Images below) Research Results - Tube and Microplate Assays for Bacterial Biofilm
Study Design: basic science, quantitative research
- to understand the medical importance of bacterial biofilms
- to develop assays for biofilm assessment, testing and quantification
- to identify anti-biofilm agents
Background:Biofilms are communities of microbes attached to solid surfaces. Historically, causative agents of infections have been considered as primarily planktonic (independent, free-floating) that grow in suspension (e.g., broth medium) and on agar plates. Recently, research results have indicated that microbes adhere to solid surfaces, form slimy coats (known as biofilm) and cause infections. Unlike planktonic microbes, biofilm-associated microbes surround themselves with a polymeric matrix and form a complex structure. Chronic infections are frequently the result of bacteria living in biofilm communities and the National Institutes of Health has identified that 80% of all chronic infections and 65% of all (chronic plus acute) infections are due to biofilm-associated bacteria. The most important characteristic common to biofilm infections is that bacteria in the biofilms evade antimicrobial treatment strategies and host defense mechanisms. Bacteria in a biofilm are 10-1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than when the bacteria are in planktonic form. Biofilms are a major cause of medical device-associated infections and chronic lung infections in adult cystic fibrosis patients (a primary cause of mortality in that group). Host responses efficacious in elimination of planktonic microbes are often ineffective against those same bacteria when present in biofilms. It has been identified that even in people with competent innate and adaptive immune responses, biofilm-based infections are rarely resolved by host defense mechanisms. Given the continued and emerging infections caused by antimicrobic-resistant and host defense-ineffective microbes, discovery of agents that prevent biofilm formation or adherence is of great importance.
Sponsor: American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) Education and Research (E&R) Fund
Project Title: Development of simple, cost-effective assays for biofilm quantitation and anti-biofilm assessment for routine clinical laboratory use
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Period: 2010-2012
Sponsor: Saint Louis University (SLU) Beaumont Faculty Development Fund
Project Title: Effect of plant-derived compounds on bacterial growth and biofilm formation
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Period: 2012-2013
Murphy M, Eliot K, Heuertz RM, Weiss E. Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance. J Acad Nutr Diet 112(4):545-552, 2012.
Heuertz RM. Research in the Medical Laboratory Science curriculum. Clin Lab Sci 24(4):4.54-4.60, Fall 2011.
Liddell PW, Heuertz RM. Students as vital participants in research projects. Clin Lab Sci 24(2):66-70, Spring 2011.
Krivit BA, Heuertz RM. Bacterial biofilms and hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). MLO: Medical Laboratory Observer. June 43(6):36-39, 2011.
Heuertz RM, Ezekiel UR. A review of biofilms produced by pathogenic bacteria (The Learning Scope for Continuing Education Credit). ADVANCE for Medical Laboratory Professionals 22(19)1-6, October 4, 2010.
Pellizzaro AM, Heuertz RM. C-reactive protein levels are elevated in asthma and asthma-like conditions. Clin Lab Sci 23(4):223-227, Fall 2010.