Antibiofilm efficacy of focused high-energy extracorporeal shockwaves and antibiotics in vitro

Bone Joint Res. 2021 Jan;10(1):77-84. doi: 10.1302/2046-3758.101.BJR-2020-0219.R1.


Aims: Biofilm formation is one of the primary reasons for the difficulty in treating implant-related infections (IRIs). Focused high-energy extracorporeal shockwave therapy (fhESWT), which is a treatment modality for fracture nonunions, has been shown to have a direct antibacterial effect on planktonic bacteria. The goal of the present study was to investigate the effect of fhESWT on Staphylococcus aureus biofilms in vitro in the presence and absence of antibiotic agents.

Methods: S. aureus biofilms were grown on titanium discs (13 mm × 4 mm) in a bioreactor for 48 hours. Shockwaves were applied with either 250, 500, or 1,000 impulses onto the discs surrounded by either phosphate-buffered saline or antibiotic (rifampin alone or in combination with nafcillin). The number of viable bacteria was determined by quantitative culture after sonication. Representative samples were taken for scanning electron microscopy.

Results: The application of fhESWT led to a ten-fold reduction in bacterial counts on the metal discs for all impulse numbers compared to the control (p < 0.001). Increasing the number of impulses did not further reduce bacterial counts in the absence of antibiotics (all p > 0.289). Antibiotics alone reduced the number of bacteria on the discs; however, the combined application of the fhESWT and antibiotic administration further reduced the bacterial count compared to the antibiotic treatment only (p = 0.032).

Conclusion: The use of fhESWT significantly reduced the colony-forming unit (CFU) count of a S. aureus biofilm in our model independently, and in combination with antibiotics. Therefore, the supplementary application of fhESWT could be a helpful tool in the treatment of IFIs in certain cases, including infected nonunions. Cite this article: Bone Joint Res 2021;10(1):77-84.

Keywords: Staphylococcus aureus; Antibiotic; Biofilm; Extracorporeal shockwave; Nonunion; fhESWT.