Staff member

Núria Blanco Cabra

Staff member publications

Sanmukh, Swapnil Ganesh, Admella, Joana, Moya-Andérico, Laura, Fehér, Tamás, Arévalo-Jaimes, Betsy Verónica, Blanco-Cabra, Núria, Torrents, Eduard, (2023). Accessing the In Vivo Efficiency of Clinically Isolated Phages against Uropathogenic and Invasive Biofilm-Forming Escherichia coli Strains for Phage Therapy Cells 12, 344

Escherichia coli is one of the most common members of the intestinal microbiota. Many of its strains are associated with various inflammatory infections, including urinary or gut infections, especially when displaying antibiotic resistance or in patients with suppressed immune systems. According to recent reports, the biofilm-forming potential of E. coli is a crucial factor for its increased resistance against antibiotics. To overcome the limitations of using antibiotics against resistant E. coli strains, the world is turning once more towards bacteriophage therapy, which is becoming a promising candidate amongst the current personalized approaches to target different bacterial infections. Although matured and persistent biofilms pose a serious challenge to phage therapy, they can still become an effective alternative to antibiotic treatment. Here, we assess the efficiency of clinically isolated phages in phage therapy against representative clinical uropathogenic and invasive biofilm-forming E. coli strains. Our results demonstrate that irrespective of host specificity, bacteriophages producing clear plaques with a high burst size, and exhibiting depolymerizing activity, are good candidates against biofilm-producing E. coli pathogens as verified from our in vitro and in vivo experiments using Galleria mellonella where survival was significantly increased for phage-therapy-treated larvae.

JTD Keywords: antibiotic resistance, assay, bacteriophage, bacteriophages, biofilm-forming potential, infection, inflammatory infections, mechanisms, Galleria-mellonella, Intestinal microflora

Blanco-Cabra, N, Movellan, J, Marradi, M, Gracia, R, Salvador, C, Dupin, D, Loinaz, I, Torrents, E, (2022). Neutralization of ionic interactions by dextran-based single-chain nanoparticles improves tobramycin diffusion into a mature biofilm Npj Biofilms And Microbiomes 8, 52

The extracellular matrix protects biofilm cells by reducing diffusion of antimicrobials. Tobramycin is an antibiotic used extensively to treat P. aeruginosa biofilms, but it is sequestered in the biofilm periphery by the extracellular negative charge matrix and loses its efficacy significantly. Dispersal of the biofilm extracellular matrix with enzymes such as DNase I is another promising therapy that enhances antibiotic diffusion into the biofilm. Here, we combine the charge neutralization of tobramycin provided by dextran-based single-chain polymer nanoparticles (SCPNs) together with DNase I to break the biofilm matrix. Our study demonstrates that the SCPNs improve the activity of tobramycin and DNase I by neutralizing the ionic interactions that keep this antibiotic in the biofilm periphery. Moreover, the detailed effects and interactions of nanoformulations with extracellular matrix components were revealed through time-lapse imaging of the P. aeruginosa biofilms by laser scanning confocal microscopy with specific labeling of the different biofilm components.

JTD Keywords: Cystic-fibrosis sputum, Delivery, Extracellular dna, Infections, Pseudomonas-aeruginosa, Transport

Rubio-Canalejas, A, Baelo, A, Herbera, S, Blanco-Cabra, N, Vukomanovic, M, Torrents, E, (2022). 3D spatial organization and improved antibiotic treatment of a Pseudomonas aeruginosa-Staphylococcus aureus wound biofilm by nanoparticle enzyme delivery Frontiers In Microbiology 13, 959156

Chronic wounds infected by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are a relevant health problem worldwide because these pathogens grow embedded in a network of polysaccharides, proteins, lipids, and extracellular DNA, named biofilm, that hinders the transport of antibiotics and increases their antimicrobial tolerance. It is necessary to investigate therapies that improve the penetrability and efficacy of antibiotics. In this context, our main objectives were to study the relationship between P. aeruginosa and S. aureus and how their relationship can affect the antimicrobial treatment and investigate whether functionalized silver nanoparticles can improve the antibiotic therapy. We used an optimized in vitro wound model that mimics an in vivo wound to co-culture P. aeruginosa and S. aureus biofilm. The in vitro wound biofilm was treated with antimicrobial combinatory therapies composed of antibiotics (gentamycin and ciprofloxacin) and biofilm-dispersing free or silver nanoparticles functionalized with enzymes (alpha-amylase, cellulase, DNase I, or proteinase K) to study their antibiofilm efficacy. The interaction and colocalization of P. aeruginosa and S. aureus in a wound-like biofilm were examined and detailed characterized by confocal and electronic microscopy. We demonstrated that antibiotic monotherapy is inefficient as it differentially affects the two bacterial species in the mixed biofilm, driving P. aeruginosa to overcome S. aureus when using ciprofloxacin and the contrary when using gentamicin. In contrast, dual-antibiotic therapy efficiently reduces both species while maintaining a balanced population. In addition, DNase I nanoparticle treatment had a potent antibiofilm effect, decreasing P. aeruginosa and S. aureus viability to 0.017 and 7.7%, respectively, in combined antibiotics. The results showed that using nanoparticles functionalized with DNase I enhanced the antimicrobial treatment, decreasing the bacterial viability more than using the antibiotics alone. The enzymes alpha-amylase and cellulase showed some antibiofilm effect but were less effective compared to the DNase I treatment. Proteinase K showed insignificant antibiofilm effect. Finally, we proposed a three-dimensional colocalization model consisting of S. aureus aggregates within the biofilm structure, which could be associated with the low efficacy of antibiofilm treatments on bacteria. Thus, designing a clinical treatment that combines antibiofilm enzymes and antibiotics may be essential to eliminating chronic wound infections.

JTD Keywords: antimicrobial therapies, biofilm, chronic infection, nanoparticle, Antimicrobial therapies, Biofilm, Chronic infection, In-vitro, Matrix, Model, Nanoparticle, Wound healing

Lozano, Helena, Millan-Solsona, Ruben, Blanco-Cabra, Nuria, Fabregas, Rene, Torrents, Eduard, Gomila, Gabriel, (2021). Electrical properties of outer membrane extensions from Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 Nanoscale 13, 18754-18762

Outer membrane extensions from the metal-reducing bacterium Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 show an insulating behavior in dry air environment as measured by scanning dielectric microscopy.

JTD Keywords: constant, dielectric polarization, microbial nanowires, nanoscale, transport, Air environment, Bacteria, Bacterial cells, Bacterial nanowires, Dry air, Metal-reducing bacteria, Outer membrane, Phase-minerals, Proteins, Shewanella oneidensis mr-1, Solid phasis, Solid-phase, Space division multiple access, Tubulars

Blanco-Cabra, Núria, Paetzold, Bernhard, Ferrar, Tony, Mazzolini, Rocco, Torrents, Eduard, Serrano, Luis, Lluch-Senar, Maria, (2020). Characterization of different alginate lyases for dissolving Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms Scientific Reports 10, (1), 9390

Aggregates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa form a protective barrier against antibiotics and the immune system. These barriers, known as biofilms, are associated with several infectious diseases. One of the main components of these biofilms is alginate, a homo- and hetero-polysaccharide that consists of β-D-mannuronate (M) and α-L-guluronate (G) units. Alginate lyases degrade this sugar and have been proposed as biotherapeutic agents to dissolve P. aeruginosa biofilms. However, there are contradictory reports in the literature regarding the efficacy of alginate lyases against biofilms and their synergistic effect with antibiotics. We found that most positive reports used a commercial crude extract from Flavobacterium multivorum as the alginate lyase source. By using anion exchange chromatography coupled to nano LC MS/MS, we identified two distinct enzymes in this extract, one has both polyM and polyG (polyM/G) degradation activities and it is similar in sequence to a broad-spectrum alginate lyase from Flavobacterium sp. S20 (Alg2A). The other enzyme has only polyG activity and it is similar in sequence to AlyA1 from Zobellia galactanivorans. By characterizing both of these enzymes together with three recombinant alginate lyases (a polyM, a polyG and a polyM/G), we showed that only enzymes with polyM/G activity such as Alg2A and A1-II’ (alginate lyase from Sphingomonas sp.) are effective in dissolving biofilms. Furthermore, both activities are required to have a synergistic effect with antibiotics.


Pedraz, Lucas, Blanco-Cabra, Núria, Torrents, Eduard, (2020). Gradual adaptation of facultative anaerobic pathogens to microaerobic and anaerobic conditions The FASEB Journal 34, (2), 2912-2928

Many notable human pathogens are facultative anaerobes. These pathogens exhibit redundant metabolic pathways and a whole array of regulatory systems to adapt to changing oxygen levels. However, our knowledge of facultative anaerobic pathogens is mostly based on fully aerobic or anaerobic cultures, which does not reflect real infection conditions, while the microaerobic range remains understudied. Here, we examine the behavior of pathogenic and nonpathogenic strains of two facultative anaerobes, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, during the aerobic-anaerobic transition. To do so, we introduce a new technique named AnaeroTrans, in which we allow self-consumption of oxygen by steady-state cultures and monitor the system by measuring the gas-phase oxygen concentration. We explore the different behavior of the studied species toward oxygen and examine how this behavior is associated with the targeted infection sites. As a model, we characterize the adaptation profile of the ribonucleotide reductase network, a complex oxygen-dependent enzymatic system responsible for the generation of the deoxyribonucleotides. We also explore the actions of the most important anaerobic regulators and how these regulators influence bacterial fitness. Our results allow us to classify the different elements that compose the aerobic-anaerobic transition into reproducible stages, thus showing the different adaptation mechanisms of the studied species.


Ohui, K., Afanasenko, E., Bacher, F., Ting, R. L. X., Zafar, A., Blanco-Cabra, N., Torrents, E., Dömötör, O., May, N. V., Darvasiova, D., Enyedy, Éva A., Popovi, Reynisson, J., Rapta, P., Babak, M. V., Pastorin, G., Arion, V. B., (2019). New water-soluble copper(II) complexes with morpholine-thiosemicarbazone hybrids: Insights into the anticancer and antibacterial mode of action Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 62, (2), 512-530

Six morpholine-(iso)thiosemicarbazone hybrids HL1–HL6 and their Cu(II) complexes with good-to-moderate solubility and stability in water were synthesized and characterized. Cu(II) complexes [Cu(L1–6)Cl] (1–6) formed weak dimeric associates in the solid state, which did not remain intact in solution as evidenced by ESI-MS. The lead proligands and Cu(II) complexes displayed higher antiproliferative activity in cancer cells than triapine. In addition, complexes 2–5 were found to specifically inhibit the growth of Gram-positive bacteria Staphylococcus aureus with MIC50 values at 2–5 μg/mL. Insights into the processes controlling intracellular accumulation and mechanism of action were investigated for 2 and 5, including the role of ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) inhibition, endoplasmic reticulum stress induction, and regulation of other cancer signaling pathways. Their ability to moderately inhibit R2 RNR protein in the presence of dithiothreitol is likely related to Fe chelating properties of the proligands liberated upon reduction.


Blanco-Cabra, N., Vega-Granados, K., Moya-Andérico, L., Vukomanovic, M., Parra, A., Álvarez De Cienfuegos, L., Torrents, E., (2019). Novel oleanolic and maslinic acid derivatives as a promising treatment against Bacterial biofilm in nosocomial infections: An in vitro and in vivo study ACS Infectious Diseases 5, (9), 1581-1589

Oleanolic acid (OA) and maslinic acid (MA) are pentacyclic triterpenic compounds that abound in industrial olive oil waste. These compounds have renowned antimicrobial properties and lack cytotoxicity in eukaryotic cells as well as resistance mechanisms in bacteria. Despite these advantages, their antimicrobial activity has only been tested in vitro, and derivatives improving this activity have not been reported. In this work, a set of 14 OA and MA C-28 amide derivatives have been synthesized. Two of these derivatives, MA-HDA and OA-HDA, increase the in vitro antimicrobial activity of the parent compounds while reducing their toxicity in most of the Gram-positive bacteria tested, including a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus-MRSA. MA-HDA also shows an enhanced in vivo efficacy in a Galleria mellonella invertebrate animal model of infection. A preliminary attempt to elucidate their mechanism of action revealed that these compounds are able to penetrate and damage the bacterial cell membrane. More significantly, their capacity to reduce antibiofilm formation in catheters has also been demonstrated in two sets of conditions: a static and a more challenged continuous-flow S. aureus biofilm.

JTD Keywords: Antibiofilm, Galleria mellonella, In vitro and in vivo antimicrobials, Maslinic and oleanolic acids, Natural products, Staphylococcus aureus

Cendra, Maria del Mar, Blanco-Cabra, Núria, Pedraz, Lucas, Torrents, Eduard, (2019). Optimal environmental and culture conditions allow the in vitro coexistence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus in stable biofilms Scientific Reports 9, (1), 16284

The coexistence between species that occurs in some infections remains hard to achieve in vitro since bacterial fitness differences eventually lead to a single organism dominating the mixed culture. Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are major pathogens found growing together in biofilms in disease-affected lungs or wounds. Herein, we tested and analyzed different culture media, additives and environmental conditions to support P. aeruginosa and S. aureus coexistence in vitro. We have unraveled the potential of DMEM to support the growth of these two organisms in mature cocultured biofilms (three days old) in an environment that dampens the pH rise. Our conditions use equal initial inoculation ratios of both strains and allow the stable formation of separate S. aureus microcolonies that grow embedded in a P. aeruginosa biofilm, as well as S. aureus biofilm overgrowth when bovine serum albumin is added to the system. Remarkably, we also found that S. aureus survival is strictly dependent on a well-characterized phenomenon of oxygen stratification present in the coculture biofilm. An analysis of differential tolerance to gentamicin and ciprofloxacin treatment, depending on whether P. aeruginosa and S. aureus were growing in mono- or coculture biofilms, was used to validate our in vitro coculture conditions.

JTD Keywords: Applied microbiology, Biofilms

Crespo, Anna, Blanco-Cabra, N., Torrents, Eduard, (2018). Aerobic vitamin B12 biosynthesis is essential for pseudomonas aeruginosa class II ribonucleotide reductase activity during planktonic and biofilm growth Frontiers in Microbiology 9, (986), Article 986

P. aeruginosa is a major pathogenic bacterium in chronic infections and is a model organism for studying biofilms. P. aeruginosa is considered an aerobic bacterium, but in the presence of nitrate, it also grows in anaerobic conditions. Oxygen diffusion through the biofilm generates metabolic and genetic diversity in P. aeruginosa growth, such as in ribonucleotide reductase activity. These essential enzymes are necessary for DNA synthesis and repair. Oxygen availability determines the activity of the three-ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) classes. Class II and III RNRs are active in the absence of oxygen; however, class II RNRs, which are important in P. aeruginosa biofilm growth, require a vitamin B12 cofactor for their enzymatic activity. In this work, we elucidated the conditions in which class II RNRs are active due to vitamin B12 concentration constraints (biosynthesis or environmental availability). We demonstrated that increased vitamin B12 levels during aerobic, stationary and biofilm growth activate class II RNR activity. We also established that the cobN gene is essentially responsible for B12 biosynthesis under planktonic and biofilm growth. Our results unravel the mechanisms of dNTP synthesis by P. aeruginosa during biofilm growth, which appear to depend on the bacterial strain (laboratory-type or clinical isolate).

JTD Keywords: Vitamin B12, Adenosylcobalamin, Ribonucleotide Reductases, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, NrdJ, Bacterial growth, Biofilm,Anaerobiosis

Pujol, E., Blanco-Cabra, N., Julián, E., Leiva, R., Torrents, E., Vázquez, S., (2018). Pentafluorosulfanyl-containing triclocarban analogs with potent antimicrobial activity Molecules 23, (11), 2853

Concerns have been raised about the long-term accumulating effects of triclocarban, a polychlorinated diarylurea widely used as an antibacterial soap additive, in the environment and in human beings. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration has recently banned it from personal care products. Herein, we report the synthesis, antibacterial activity and cytotoxicity of novel N,N′-diarylureas as triclocarban analogs, designed by reducing one or more chlorine atoms of the former and/or replacing them by the novel pentafluorosulfanyl group, a new bioisostere of the trifluoromethyl group, with growing importance in drug discovery. Interestingly, some of these pentafluorosulfanyl-bearing ureas exhibited high potency, broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive bacterial pathogens, and high selectivity index, while displaying a lower spontaneous mutation frequency than triclocarban. Some lines of evidence suggest a bactericidal mode of action for this family of compounds.

JTD Keywords: Antibacterial, Gram-positive, N,N'-diarylureas, Pentafluorosulfanyl, Staphylococcus aureus, Triclocarban

Noguera-Ortega, E., Blanco-Cabra, N., Rabanal, R.M., Sanchez-Chardi, A., Roldán, M., Torrents, E., Luquin, M., Julián, E., (2016). Mycobacteria emulsified in olive oil-in-water trigger a robust immune response in bladder cancer treatment Scientific Reports 6, 27232

The hydrophobic composition of mycobacterial cell walls leads to the formation of clumps when attempting to resuspend mycobacteria in aqueous solutions. Such aggregation may interfere in the mycobacteria-host cells interaction and, consequently, influence their antitumor effect. To improve the immunotherapeutic activity of Mycobacterium brumae, we designed different emulsions and demonstrated their efficacy. The best formulation was initially selected based on homogeneity and stability. Both olive oil (OO)- and mineral oil-in-water emulsions better preserved the mycobacteria viability and provided higher disaggregation rates compared to the others. But, among both emulsions, the OO emulsion increased the mycobacteria capacity to induce cytokines’ production in bladder tumor cell cultures. The OO-mycobacteria emulsion properties: less hydrophobic, lower pH, more neutralized zeta potential, and increased affinity to fibronectin than non-emulsified mycobacteria, indicated favorable conditions for reaching the bladder epithelium in vivo. Finally, intravesical OO-M. brumae-treated mice showed a significantly higher systemic immune response, together with a trend toward increased tumor-bearing mouse survival rates compared to the rest of the treated mice. The physicochemical characteristics and the induction of a robust immune response in vitro and in vivo highlight the potential of the OO emulsion as a good delivery vehicle for the mycobacterial treatment of bladder cancer.