Impact of bacterial biofilm on the treatment of prosthetic joint infections

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2014 Sep;69 Suppl 1:i37-40. doi: 10.1093/jac/dku254.


Microbial biofilm contributes to chronic infection and is involved in the pathogenesis of prosthetic joint infections. Biofilms are structurally complex and should be considered a dynamic system able to protect the bacteria from host defence mechanisms and from antibacterial agents. Despite the use of antibiotics recognized as effective against acute infections, prosthetic joint infections require long-term suppressive treatment acting on adherent bacteria. Conventional in vitro susceptibility testing methods are not suitable for biofilm-associated infections given that these tests do not take into account the physiological parameters of bacterial cells in vivo. Most anti-staphylococcal drugs are able to inhibit in vitro the adhesion of bacteria to a surface, considered to be the first step in biofilm formation. Recent studies suggest that the lack of activity of antibiotics against biofilm-embedded bacteria seems to be more related to the decreased effect of the drug on the pathogen than to the poor penetration of the drug into the biofilm. Eradication of biofilm-embedded bacteria is a very difficult task and combination therapy is required in the treatment of persistent infections involving biofilm. Although several combinations demonstrate potent efficacy, rifampicin is the most common partner drug of effective combinations against staphylococcal biofilms. Considering the complexity of biofilm-related infections, further studies are needed to assess the activity of new therapeutic agents in combination with antibiotics (quorum-sensing inhibitors, biofilm disruptors and specific anti-biofilm molecules).

Keywords: adhesion; antibiotic resistance; biofilms; joint infections; osteomyelitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Infections / therapy*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / methods
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / therapy*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents