Fungi and bacteria grow on body implants, study finds

July 4, 2018, University of Copenhagen

A body implant provides a new habitat for bacteria and fungi, a new study conducted at the University of Copenhagen reveals. The researchers have examined a number of implants such as screws implanted in the body in connection with surgery and discovered bacteria and fungi on them – despite the fact that the patients have shown no signs of infection.

Each year a large number of Danes get a hip or knee replacement or have broken bones fixed with screws. Previously the general assumption has been that implants inserted into the are sterile. Now researchers from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen have discovered and fungi on implants that have been inserted in patients. The new study has just been published in the scientific journal APMIS.

The researchers have examined 106 implants and the surrounding tissue from different patient groups. They discovered that more than 70 per cent – corresponding to 78 implants – were colonised by bacteria, fungi or both. None of the patients in whom the implants had been implanted showed signs of infection, though.

"This opens up a brand new field and understanding of the interplay between the body and bacteria and microbiomes. We have always believed implants to be completely sterile. It is easy to imagine, though, that when you insert a foreign body into the body, you create a new niche, a new habitat for bacteria. Now the question is whether this is beneficial, like the rest of our microbiome, whether they are precursors to infection or whether it is insignificant," says Professor and co-author of the study Thomas Bjarnsholt, Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

No Pathogens

The studied implants range from screws and knees to pacemakers and were collected at five different hospitals in the Capital Region of Denmark. They come from four different patient groups: with aseptic loosening, craniofacial implants, healed fractures and recently diseased who had implants.

Of the examined implants a significant majority of screws had been colonised by bacteria, while the opposite was the case for knees. The prevalence of fungi was the same for the different types of implants. Common to all cases, however, was that none of the discovered bacteria or fungi were pathogens such as staphylococcus.

"It is important to stress that we have found no direct pathogens, which normally cause infection. Of course if they had been present, we would also have found an infection," says Assistant Professor and co-author of the study Tim Holm Jakobsen, Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

"The study shows a prevalence of bacteria in places where we do not expect to find any. And they manage to remain there for a very long time probably without affecting the patient negatively. In general, you can say that when something is implanted in the body it simply increases the likelihood of bacteria development and the creation of a new environment," says Tim Holm Jakobsen.

39 Negative Controls

The researchers also conducted 39 controls to examine and ensure that the implants had not simply been contaminated in the process of collecting samples or the subsequent analysis. This was done by opening a sterile implant, for example a screw, in the laboratory, during surgery or implanted in a patient and removing it again shortly after.

All controls were negative, which means that none of them led to the discovery of bacteria or fungi. According to the researchers, this must mean that the colonisation of bacteria and fungi begins after the implant is inserted in the body. On average, the examined implants had been in the body of the patient for 13 months.

"If our discovery of bacteria and fungi was simply a result of contamination, we would have reached the same results by inserting an implant in a patient and removing it again. But all the controls were negative. So it is something that develops inside the body over a period of time,'" Professor Thomas Bjarnsholt explains.

The next step for the researchers is to examine the effect of the identified bacteria and on the body and the and precisely how they emerge.

Explore further: Tiny antibiotic beads fight infections after joint replacement

More information: Tim H. Jakobsen et al. Implants induce a new niche for microbiomes, APMIS (2018). DOI: 10.1111/apm.12862

Related Stories

Tiny antibiotic beads fight infections after joint replacement

January 11, 2018
More than 1 million people undergo total joint replacements each year, and nearly 10,000 will develop infections. To reduce this infection risk, a Houston Methodist orthopedic surgeon created small antibiotic beads that are ...

Infection is most common complication of facial implants

January 24, 2018
(HealthDay)—The most common complications of facial implants include infection, implant migration, and extrusion, according to a study published online Jan. 18 in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.

Textured breast implants pose greater risk of infection than smooth breast implants

March 31, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—New research shows that breast implants with a textured surface have a significantly higher chance of developing bacterial coating (biofilm) in comparison with smooth implants, in turn heightening the risk ...

Link found between textured breast implants and rare cancer

November 11, 2014
New research has revealed that infection by bacteria on the surface of textured breast implants may increase women's risk of developing a rare type of cancer – newly designated as breast implant associated anaplastic large ...

Research reveals which breast implants pose the greatest risk of implant-associated cancer

May 17, 2017
Researchers at Macquarie University's MQ Health have revealed that women implanted with textured breast implants are at a significantly higher risk of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

Recommended for you

Antibiotics for appendicitis? Surgery often not needed

September 25, 2018
When emergency tests showed the telltale right-sided pain in Heather VanDusen's abdomen was appendicitis, she figured she'd be quickly wheeled into surgery. But doctors offered her the option of antibiotics instead.

3-D-printed tracheal splints used in groundbreaking pediatric surgery

September 19, 2018
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has performed Georgia's first-ever procedure to place 3-D-printed tracheal splints in a pediatric patient. A cross-functional team of Children's surgeons used three custom-made splints, which ...

Muscle relaxants increase risk of respiratory complications

September 18, 2018
Muscle relaxants are a necessary part of anesthesia during certain major operations. However, studies have hinted at respiratory risks connected with these drugs. POPULAR, a major prospective observational European study ...

Gunshot victims require much more blood and are more likely to die than other trauma patients

September 17, 2018
In a new analysis of data submitted to Maryland's state trauma registry from 2005 to 2017, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers found that gunshot victims are approximately five times more likely to require blood transfusions, ...

Liver allocation system disadvantages children awaiting transplants

September 17, 2018
Children are at a considerable disadvantage when competing with adults for livers from deceased organ donors in the U.S. allocation system, a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health-led analysis reveals ...

Taste preferences connected to success of long-term weight loss after bariatric surgery

September 16, 2018
Following Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB), a type of bariatric surgery, many patients exhibit a reduction in taste preference for sweet and fatty foods, although this effect may only be temporary, according to new research ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.