Propionibacterium acnes and coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) are opportunistic pathogens implicated in prosthetic joint and fracture fixation device-related infections. The purpose of this study was to determine whether P. acnes and the CoNS species Staphylococcus lugdunensis, isolated from an "aseptically failed" prosthetic hip joint and a united intramedullary nail-fixed tibial fracture, respectively, could cause osteomyelitis in an established implant-related osteomyelitis model in rabbits in the absence of wear debris from the implant material. The histological features of P. acnes infection in the in vivo rabbit model were consistent with localized pyogenic osteomyelitis, and a biofilm was present on all explanted intramedullary (IM) nails. The animals displayed no outward signs of infection, such as swelling, lameness, weight loss, or elevated white blood cell count. In contrast, infection with S. lugdunensis resulted in histological features consistent with both pyogenic osteomyelitis and septic arthritis, and all S. lugdunensis-infected animals displayed weight loss and an elevated white blood cell count despite biofilm detection in only two out of six rabbits. The differences in the histological and bacteriological profiles of the two species in this rabbit model of infection are reflective of their different clinical presentations: low-grade infection in the case of P. acnes and acute infection for S. lugdunensis. These results are especially important in light of the growing recognition of chronic P. acnes biofilm infections in prosthetic joint failure and nonunion of fracture fixations, which may be currently reported as "aseptic" failure.
Gahukamble, A. D., McDowell, A., Post, V., Varela, J. S., Rochford, E. T. J., Richards, R. G., Patrick, S., & Moriarty, T. F. (2014). Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus lugdunensis Cause Pyogenic Osteomyelitis in an Intramedullary Nail Model in Rabbits. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 52(5), 1595-1606. https://doi.org/10.1128/JCM.03197-13