Survival of bacterial biofilms within neutrophil extracellular traps promotes nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae persistence in the chinchilla model for otitis media

J Innate Immun. 2009;1(3):215-24. doi: 10.1159/000205937. Epub 2009 Feb 27.


Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) is a leading cause of acute and chronic otitis media, which are a major public health problem worldwide. The persistence of NTHi during chronic and recurrent otitis media infections involves multicellular biofilm communities formed within the middle-ear chamber. Bacterial biofilms resist immune clearance and antibiotic therapy due in part to encasement within a polymeric matrix. In this study, the contribution of biofilms to bacterial persistence in vivo and composition of the NTHi biofilm matrix during experimental otitis media were investigated. The presence of biofilms within the chinchilla middle-ear chamber was significantly correlated with increased bacterial load in middle-ear effusions and tissue. Examination of thin sections revealed polymorphonuclear cells within a DNA lattice containing elastase and histones, which is consistent with the definition of neutrophil extracellular traps. Viable multicellular biofilm communities with biofilm phenotypes were found within the DNA lattice throughout the biofilm. Further, NTHi was resistant to both phagocytic and extracellular neutrophil killing in vitro by means of lipooligosaccharide moieties that promote biofilm formation. These data support the conclusion that NTHi subverts neutrophil extracellular traps to persist in vivo. These data also indicate that a more inclusive definition for biofilms may be warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Cellular Structures / microbiology*
  • Chinchilla
  • Chronic Disease
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA / ultrastructure
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Haemophilus Infections / microbiology
  • Haemophilus influenzae / growth & development*
  • Haemophilus influenzae / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / microbiology*
  • Neutrophils / ultrastructure*
  • Otitis Media / microbiology*
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / microbiology


  • DNA