Balbina J. Plotkin, Ph.D., M.Ed.


Midwestern University
Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, College of Health Sciences, College of Dental Medicine
Microbiology and Immunology Department
Science Hall 323-D
555 31st St.
Downers Grove, IL 60515

Office: (630) 515-6163



B.S. Microbiology Indiana University 1977
Ph.D. Microbiology University of Tennessee 1982
M.Ed. Higher Education Loyola University 1996


Pathogen-host interactions and specifically the effects host-derived signaling chemicals (quorum sensing compounds) have on microbial colonization initiation (biofilm formation), resistance to antimicrobials and virulence-essential behaviors, including chemotaxis, is the focus research. The Plotkin laboratory established a program of research characterizing essential host factors as modulators of microbial virulence expression. To date, three novel inter-kingdom quorum signaling compounds (insulin, DHEA and vitamin K) have been identified as have their effects on biofilm expression, antibiotic susceptibility and behavior (chemotaxis) in E. coli and S. aureus.  In addition, we reported on the dual roles cholesterol plays in host-Candida interactions using an animal model for type 2 diabetes (Zucker rat, fa/fa). A natural offshoot of this interest which the laboratory is actively pursuing is determination of the effects life-long latent viral infections, e.g. HSV, have on the microbiome and other polymicrobic-host interactions throughout the various ecologic niches in the body.

Project I: We have developed a novel method for the cultivation of mammalain cells in the absence of oxygen. The technique is used to characterize the physiology, metabolism,  and infection potential of cancer, immortal and stem cells.  This is done In collaboration with Dr. I. Sigar in the Department of Microbiology.

Project II: Polymicrobic interactions are the norm on mucosal surfaces. These interactions include permanent pathogens, e.g. herpes simplex virus, as well as opportunistic pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans.  In collaboration with Dr. I. Sigar and V. Tiwari, in the Department of Microbiology, we are investigating the pathophysiology of these interactions.

Project III: Insulin, as well as other host hormones, affects phenotypic expression of bacterial pathogenesis related behaviors, e.g., biofilm formation and chemotaxis.  The Plotkin is identifying the receptors for the host hormones and the relationship between microbial phenotypic variation and disease production associated with in vivo exposure.Selected Publications

Plotkin, BJ, James W. Davis, Luigi Strizzi, Peter Lee, Jayme Celbi-Christensen, Orlando Rivero, Brent Ito Ira M. Sigar A method for the long-term cultivation of mammalian cells in the absence of oxygen: Characterization of cell replication, hypoxia-inducible factor expression and reactive oxygen species productionTissue and Cell, Volume 50, February 2018, Pages 59-68 

BJ, Sigar IM, Tiwari V, Halkyard S. Determination of Biofilm Initiation on Virus-infected Cells by Bacteria and Fungi. 2016 J Vis Exp. 6;(113). doi: 10.3791/54162.

Plotkin, BJ 2017  Host factors, the "Simon Says" for microbial biofilms.  Atlas of Science June 13, 2017

Kirby, D., Savage, J. and Plotkin, B. Menaquinone (Vitamin K2) enhancement of Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation. 2014. Journal of Biosciences and Medicines, 2, 26-32. doi: 10.4236/jbm.2014.21004 

Plotkin, BJ , Zi Jian Wu, Kathleen Ward, Shaven Nadella, Jacalyn M. Green, and Benny Rummani. Open J Urology. Effect of human insulin on the formation of catheter-associated E. coli biofilms. 2014. Open Journal of Urology 4: 49-56.

Lau, D, Plotkin BJ, Antimicrobial and biofilm effects of herbs used in traditional Chinese Medicine. 2013 Natural Product Communications 8 (11): 1617-1620 PMID: 24427955 

Kirby DT, Raino CJ, Rabor Jr. SF, Wasson CJ, Plotkin BJ Semi-Automated method for multi-tasking measurement of microbial growth, capsule, and biofilm formation. 2012 AiM 2:623-628. DOI: 10.4236/aim.2012.24081  

Kostova, M. B., Myers, C. J., Beck , T. N., Plotkin, B. J., Green, J. M., Boshoff, H. M., Barry III, C., Deschamps, J. and Konaklieva, M. I. "C4-alkylthiols with activity against Moraxella catarrhalis and Mycobacterium tuberculosis", Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, 2011, 19, 6842-6852. PMID:22014754;NIHMS 329494  

Plotkin BJ and Konaklieva MI. Surface properties of Vibrio vulnificus. 2007 Lett. Applied Microbiol 44, issue 4, pg 426-231 PMID:17397482

Plotkin BJ and Konaklieva MI. Possible role of sarA in dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) - mediated increase in Staphylococcus aureus resistance to vancomycin", 2007 Chemotherapy;53:181-184. PMID: 17356267

Klosowska KK and BJ Plotkin. Human insulin modulation of Escherichia coli colonization-associated virulence factors. Amer J Infect Dis 2006;2:197-200  

Plotkin BJ, Morejon A, Laddaga R, Viselli SM, Thijo J, Schreckenberger P. Induction of increased resistance to vancomycin in Staphylococcus aureus clinical isolates (MSSA, MRSA) by dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA). Lett App Microbiol 2005 40(6), 504-509. PMID:15752213; DOI:10.1111/j.1472-765X.2005.01665.x  

Plotkin, BJ, Rouse R, Viselli SM. Effect of androgens and glucocorticoids on microbial growth and antibiotic susceptibility 2003.  Current Microbiol 47:514-20. PMID: 14756537; DOI:10.1007/s00284-003-4080-y  

Farzam F, Plotkin BJ.  Effect of sub-MICs of antibiotics on the hydrophobicity and production of acidic polysaccharide by Vibrio vulnificus. Chemotherapy. 2001;47(3):184-93. PMID: 11306787

Plotkin BJ, Viselli SM. Effect of insulin on microbial growth. Curr Microbiol. 2000;41(1):60-4.PMID: 10919401; DOI:10.1007/s002840010092

Plotkin BJ, Paulson D. Zucker rat (fa/fa), a model for the study of immune function in type-II diabetes mellitus:  effect of exercise and caloric restriction on the phagocytic activity of macrophages. Lab Anim Sci. 1996;46(6):682-4 . PMID:9001184

Plotkin BJ, Paulson D, Chelich A, Jurak D, Cole J, Kasimos J, Burdick JR, Casteel N. Immune responsiveness in a rat model for type II diabetes (Zucker rat, fa/fa): susceptibility to Candida albicans infection and leucocyte function. J Med Microbiol. 1996;44(4):277-83; PMID:8606356  

Plotkin BJ, Wright M, Lima A, Gruenberg L. Effect of abnormal levels of serum components on antibiotic activity. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1991;35(4):767-9. PMCID:PMC245096