Objective: To investigate the source of infections associated with orthopaedic prostheses.
Design: Analysis of four infections of prosthetic joints with case records; minimum inhibitory and minimum bactericidal concentrations and sodium dodecylsulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of the cell wall polypeptides of the Streptococcus sanguis isolates from the mouth and infected prostheses; examination of the patients' mouths for periodontal disease and caries.
Subjects: Four adults (three men) aged 58-83.
Results: For each patient the strain of S sanguis isolated from the mouth was indistinguishable from that isolated from the prosthesis. All patients had severe periodontal disease and caries.
Conclusions: The mouth was probably the source of bacterial infection in the prosthetic joints of these patients; the route of infection was possibly haematogenous. Incipient oral infection should be treated before joint replacement, and oral health should be maintained indefinitely.