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Low-energy shock waves enhance the susceptibility of staphylococcal biofilms to antimicrobial agents in vitro

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Biofilm-associated infections in wounds or on implants are difficult to treat. Eradication of the bacteria is nearly always impossible, despite the use of specific antibiotics. The bactericidal effects of high-energy extracorporeal shock waves on Staphylococcus aureus have been reported, but the effect of low-energy shock waves on staphylococci and staphylococcal biofilms has not been investigated. In this study, biofilms grown on stainless steel washers were examined by electron microscopy. We tested ten experimental groups with Staph. aureus-coated washers and eight groups with Staph. epidermidis.

The biofilm-cultured washers were exposed to low-energy shock waves at 0.16 mJ/mm2 for 500 impulses. The washers were then treated with cefuroxime, rifampicin and fosfomycin, both alone and in combination. All tests were carried out in triplicate. Viable cells were counted to determine the bactericidal effect.

The control groups of Staph. aureus and Staph. epidermidis revealed a cell count of 6 × 108 colony-forming units/ml. Complete eradication was achieved using the combination of antibiotic therapy (single antibiotic in Staph. aureus, a combination in Staph. epidermidis) and shock wave application (p < 0.01).

We conclude that shock waves combined with antibiotics could be tested in an in vitro model of infection.

Correspondence should be sent to Dr M. Gstöttner; e-mail: michaela.gstoettner@gmx.at

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