Bad to the bone: On in vitro and ex vivo microbial biofilm ability to directly destroy colonized bone surfaces without participation of host immunity or osteoclastogenesis

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© 2017 Junka et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Bone infections are a significant public health burden associated with morbidity and mortality in patients. Microbial biofilm pathogens are the causative agents in chronic osteomyelitis. Research on the pathogenesis of osteomyelitis has focused on indirect bone destruction by host immune cells and cytokines secondary to microbial insult. Direct bone resorption by biofilm pathogens has not yet been seriously considered. In this study, common osteomyelitis pathogens (Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans, and Streptococcus mutans) were grown as biofilms in multiple in vitro and ex vivo experiments to analyze quantitative and qualitative aspects of bone destruction during infection. Pathogens were grown as single or mixed species biofilms on the following substrates: hydroxyapatite, rat jawbone, or polystyrene wells, and in various media. Biofilm growth was evaluated by scanning electron microscopy and pH levels were monitored over time. Histomorphologic and quantitative effects of biofilms on tested substrates were analyzed by microcomputed tomography and quantitative cultures. All tested biofilms demonstrated significant damage to bone. Scanning electron microscopy indicated that all strains formed mature biofilms within 7 days on all substrate surfaces regardless of media. Experimental conditions impacted pH levels, although this had no impact on biofilm growth or bone destruction. Presence of biofilm led to bone dissolution with a decrease of total volume by 20.17±2.93% upon microcomputed tomography analysis, which was statistically significant as compared to controls (p <0.05, ANOVA). Quantitative cultures indicated that media and substrate did not impact biofilm formation (Kruskall-Wallis test, post-hoc Dunne's test; p <0.05). Overall, these results indicate that biofilms associated with osteomyelitis have the ability to directly resorb bone. These findings should lead to a more complete understanding of the etiopathogenesis of osteomyelitis, where direct bone resorption by biofilm is considered in addition to the well-known osteoclastic and host cell destruction of bone.




Junka, A., Szymczyk, P., Ziółkowski, G., Karuga-Kuzniewska, E., Smutnicka, D., Bil-Lula, I., … Sedghizadeh, P. P. (2017). Bad to the bone: On in vitro and ex vivo microbial biofilm ability to directly destroy colonized bone surfaces without participation of host immunity or osteoclastogenesis. PLoS ONE, 12(1).

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