Adhesion and colonization are prerequisites for the establishment of bacterial pathogenesis. The prevention of adhesion is an attractive target for the development of new therapies in the prevention of infection. Bacteria have developed a multiplicity of adhesion mechanisms commonly targeting surface carbohydrate structures, but our ability to rationally design effective antiadhesives is critically affected by the limitations of our knowledge of the human ‘glycome’ and of the bacterial function in relation to it. The potential for the future development of carbohydrate-based antiadhesives has been demonstrated by a significant number of in vitro and in vivo studies. Such therapies will be particularly relevant for infections of mucosal surfaces where topical application or delivery is possible.

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