How Bacteria Get from Catheter to Patient

Patients in healthcare facilities can develop infections as a result of contamination of indwelling medical devices such as catheters with bacteria that are normal inhabitants of the skin of the patient or health care personnel. The bacterium Staphylococcus epidermidis is a major cause of such infections. This is in part because of its ability to form biofilms surface-attached agglomerations of microorganisms that are extremely difficult to eradicate on indwelling devices.

Michael Otto and colleagues, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md. have now identified the bacterial products that enable Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilms to detach from the surface to which they are adhered and cause infection in a mouse model of catheterization. Importantly, molecules known as antibodies that target these bacterial products inhibited bacterial spread in the mouse model, leading the authors to suggest that interfering with biofilm detachment mechanisms might provide a new approach to preventing biofilm-associated infections. The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Reference: Wang R, Khan BA, Cheung GYC, Bach THL, Jameson-Lee M, Kong KF, Queck SY and Otto M. Staphylococcus epidermidis surfactant peptides promote biofilm maturation and dissemination of biofilm-associated infection in mice. J Clin Investigation. Dec. 6, 2010.