Novel animal model for studying the molecular mechanisms of bacterial adhesion to bone-implanted metallic devices: role of fibronectin in Staphylococcus aureus adhesion

J Orthop Res. 1996 Nov;14(6):914-20. doi: 10.1002/jor.1100140611.


Infection around metallic implants is a rare but severe complication of orthopaedic surgery. A novel animal model mimicking conditions of internal fixation devices was developed to evaluate the role of host proteins adsorbed on metallic devices in promoting adhesion and colonization of the material surfaces by Staphylococcus aureus. Small plates made of pure titanium were either fixed (three screws per plate) onto the iliac bones of guinea pigs or implanted into their subcutaneous space as controls. Five to 6 weeks after surgery, the plates and screws were removed from the previously killed animals, carefully rinsed in buffer, and tested in an in vitro assay of S. aureus adhesion to metallic surfaces. To evaluate the role of fibronectin in staphylococcal adhesion to explanted plates and screws, a mutant of S. aureus that is specifically defictive in fibronectin adhesion due to decreased expression of the fibronectin adhesin was compared with its isogenic parental strain. A significant reduction in adhesion of the fibronectin adhesin-defective mutant compared with the parental strain occurred on both the subcutaneously implanted and bone-implanted metallic plates. The results of this specific biological assay suggest that fibronectin is present on bone-implanted metallic devices and promotes attachment of S. aureus to their surfaces. This novel experimental model should help, to characterize several parameters of bacterial adhesion to metallic orthopaedic devices and to develop novel anti-adhesive strategies for preventing such infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Adhesion / drug effects
  • Bacterial Adhesion / physiology*
  • Bone Plates / adverse effects
  • Bone Screws / adverse effects
  • Bone and Bones / surgery*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Equipment Design
  • Fibronectins / pharmacology
  • Fibronectins / physiology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Prostheses and Implants / microbiology*
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / etiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology*
  • Titanium*


  • Fibronectins
  • Titanium