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The European Orthopaedic Research Society (EORS) 2018 Meeting, PART 2, Galway, Ireland, September 2018.


Periprosthetic joint infections (PJI) are increasing in prevalence and are recognised as one of the most common modes of failure of joint replacements. Osteomyelitis arising from PJI is challenging to treat, difficult to cure and increases patient mortality 5-fold. PJI can have subtle symptoms and lie dormant or go undiagnosed for many years, suggesting persistent bacterial infection. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common pathogen causing PJI. Osteocytes are the most numerous and long-lived cell type in hard bone tissue. Our recent work has shown that S. aureus can infect and reside in human osteocytes without causing cell death, both experimentally and in bone samples from patients with PJI. Osteocytes respond to infection by the differential regulation of a large number of genes, suggesting previously unknown immune functions of this important cell type. S. aureus adapts during intracellular infection of osteocytes by adopting a quasi-dormant, small colony variant (SCV) phenotype, a property of several bacterial species known to cause PJI, which could contribute to persistent or silent infection. These findings shed new light on the aetiology of PJI and osteomyelitis in general. Further elucidation of the role of osteocytes in bone infection will hopefully lead to improved disease detection and management.