Susceptibility patterns of Staphylococcus aureus biofilms in diabetic foot infections

BMC Microbiol. 2016 Jun 23;16(1):119. doi: 10.1186/s12866-016-0737-0.


Background: Foot infections are a major cause of morbidity in people with diabetes and the most common cause of diabetes-related hospitalization and lower extremity amputation. Staphylococcus aureus is by far the most frequent species isolated from these infections. In particular, methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) has emerged as a major clinical and epidemiological problem in hospitals. MRSA strains have the ability to be resistant to most β-lactam antibiotics, but also to a wide range of other antimicrobials, making infections difficult to manage and very costly to treat. To date, there are two fifth-generation cephalosporins generally efficacious against MRSA, ceftaroline and ceftobripole, sharing a similar spectrum. Biofilm formation is one of the most important virulence traits of S. aureus. Biofilm growth plays an important role during infection by providing defence against several antagonistic mechanisms. In this study, we analysed the antimicrobial susceptibility patterns of biofilm-producing S. aureus strains isolated from diabetic foot infections. The antibiotic minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) was determined for ten antimicrobial compounds, along with the minimum biofilm inhibitory concentration (MBIC) and minimum biofilm eradication concentration (MBEC), followed by PCR identification of genetic determinants of biofilm production and antimicrobial resistance.

Results: Results demonstrate that very high concentrations of the most used antibiotics in treating diabetic foot infections (DFI) are required to inhibit S. aureus biofilms in vitro, which may explain why monotherapy with these agents frequently fails to eradicate biofilm infections. In fact, biofilms were resistant to antibiotics at concentrations 10-1000 times greater than the ones required to kill free-living or planktonic cells. The only antibiotics able to inhibit biofilm eradication on 50 % of isolates were ceftaroline and gentamicin.

Conclusions: The results suggest that the antibiotic susceptibility patterns cannot be applied to biofilm established infections. Selection of antimicrobial therapy is a critical step in DFI and should aim at overcoming biofilm disease in order to optimize the outcomes of this complex pathology.

Keywords: Diabetic foot infections; MBEC; MBIC; Resistance genes; Staphylococcus aureus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biofilms / drug effects*
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Cephalosporins / pharmacology
  • Diabetic Foot / drug therapy
  • Diabetic Foot / microbiology*
  • Gentamicins / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / physiology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology
  • beta-Lactams / pharmacology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Cephalosporins
  • Gentamicins
  • T 91825
  • beta-Lactams