Are late hernia mesh complications linked to Staphylococci biofilms?

Hernia. 2022 Mar 14. doi: 10.1007/s10029-022-02583-0. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the link between bacterial biofilms and negative outcomes of hernia repair surgery. As biofilms are known to play a role in mesh-related infections, we investigated the presence of biofilms on hernia meshes, which had to be explanted due to mesh failure without showing signs of bacterial infection.

Methods: In this retrospective observational study, 20 paraffin-embedded tissue sections from explanted groin hernia meshes were analysed. Meshes have been removed due to chronic pain, hernia recurrence or mesh shrinkage. The presence and bacterial composition of biofilms were determined. First, specimens were stained with fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) probes, specific for Staphylococcus aureus and coagulase-negative staphylococci, and visualised by confocal laser scanning microscopy. Second, DNA was extracted from tissue and identified by S. aureus and S. epidermidis specific PCR.

Results: Confocal microscopy showed evidence of bacterial biofilms on meshes in 15/20 (75.0%) samples, of which 3 were positive for S. aureus, 3 for coagulase-negative staphylococci and 9 for both species. PCR analysis identified biofilms in 17/20 (85.0%) samples, of which 4 were positive for S. aureus, 4 for S. epidermidis and 9 for both species. Combined results from FISH/microscopy and PCR identified staphylococci biofilms in 19/20 (95.0%) mesh samples. Only 1 (5.0%) mesh sample was negative for bacterial biofilm by both techniques.

Conclusion: Results suggest that staphylococci biofilms may be associated with hernia repair failure. A silent, undetected biofilm infection could contribute to mesh complications, chronic pain and exacerbation of disease.

Keywords: Biofilms; Chronic pain; Hernia; Implant infection; Mesh complication; Mesh failure; Staphylococcus aureus.