Background: A recent association between breast implants and the development of anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL) has been observed. The purpose of this study was to identify whether bacterial biofilm is present in breast implant-associated ALCL and, if so, to compare the bacterial microbiome to nontumor capsule samples from breast implants with contracture.
Methods: Twenty-six breast implant-associated ALCL samples were analyzed for the presence of biofilm by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction, next-generation sequencing, fluorescent in situ hybridization, and scanning electron microscopy, and compared to 62 nontumor capsule specimens.
Results: Both the breast implant-associated ALCL and nontumor capsule samples yielded high mean numbers of bacteria (breast implant-associated ALCL, 4.7 × 10 cells/mg of tissue; capsule, 4.9 × 10 cells/mg of tissue). Analysis of the microbiome in breast implant-associated ALCL specimens showed significant differences with species identified in nontumor capsule specimens. There was a significantly greater proportion of Ralstonia spp. present in ALCL specimens compared with nontumor capsule specimens (p < 0.05). In contrast, significantly more Staphylococcus spp. were found associated with nontumor capsule specimens compared with breast implant-associated ALCL specimens (p < 0.001). Bacterial biofilm was visualized both on scanning electron microscopy and fluorescent in situ hybridization.
Conclusions: This novel finding of bacterial biofilm and a distinct microbiome in breast implant-associated ALCL samples points to a possible infectious contributing cause. Breast implants are widely used in both reconstructive and aesthetic surgery, and strategies to reduce their contamination should be more widely studied and practiced.
Clinical question/level of evidence: Risk, V.