Effect of daptomycin and vancomycin on Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilms: An in vitro assessment using fluorescence in situ hybridization

PLoS One. 2019 Aug 27;14(8):e0221786. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0221786. eCollection 2019.


Colonization of in-dwelling catheters by microbial biofilms is a major concern in patient health eventually leading to catheter-related blood stream infections. Biofilms are less susceptible to standard antibiotic therapies that are effective against planktonic bacteria. Standard procedure for the detection of microorganisms on the catheter tip is culture. However, viable but non-culturable cells (VBNCs) may be missed. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) as an indicator to visualize and quantify the effect of the antibiotics daptomycin and vancomycin on biofilms in situ. We established an in vitro catheter biofilm model of Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilms on polyurethane catheters. Biofilm activity was measured by FISH and correlated to colony forming units (CFU) data. Digital image analysis was used for quantification of total biofilm mass and the area of the FISH positive biofilm cells. FISH showed a pronounced effect of both antibiotics on the biofilms, with daptomycin having a significantly stronger effect in terms of both reduction of biofilm mass and number of FISH-positive cells. This supports the anti-biofilm capacity of daptomycin. Interestingly, neither antibiotic was able to eradicate all of the FISH-positive cells. In summary, FISH succeeded in visualization, quantification, and localization of antibiotic activity on biofilms. This technique adds a new tool to the arsenal of test systems for anti-biofilm compounds. FISH is a valuable complementary technique to CFU since it can be highly standardized and provides information on biofilm architecture and quantity and localization of survivor cells.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Biofilms / drug effects*
  • Bioreactors / microbiology
  • Catheters, Indwelling / microbiology
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Daptomycin / pharmacology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence*
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / growth & development
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / physiology*
  • Vancomycin / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Vancomycin
  • Daptomycin

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.