Journal Article

<i>Staphylococcus aureus</i> Small Colony Variants in Prosthetic Joint Infection

Parham Sendi, Markus Rohrbach, Peter Graber, Reno Frei, Peter E. Ochsner and Werner Zimmerli

in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Published on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America

Volume 43, issue 8, pages 961-967
Published in print October 2006 | ISSN: 1058-4838
Published online October 2006 | e-ISSN: 1537-6591 | DOI:
Staphylococcus aureus Small Colony Variants in Prosthetic Joint Infection

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  • Infectious Diseases
  • Immunology
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  • Microbiology


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Background. Small colony variants of Staphylococcus aureus tend to persist despite antimicrobial therapy, especially when involved in implant-associated infections.

Methods. We analyzed 5 cases of hip prosthesis-associated infections due to small colony variants, including their course prior to identification of the pathogen. Biopsy investigations included microbiological examination and, in 1 case, transmission electron microscopy to detect intracellular bacteria in nonprofessional phagocytes. A treatment concept was elaborated on the basis of a published algorithm and patients were managed accordingly.

Results. The patients' mean age was 62.2 years. All patients experienced treatment failures prior to isolation of small colony variants, despite as many as 3 surgical revisions and up to 22 months of antibiotics. Transmission electron microscopy performed on biopsy specimens from periprosthetic tissue revealed intracellular cocci in fibroblasts. All prostheses were removed without implanting a spacer, and antimicrobial agents were administered for 5.5–7 weeks. Reimplantation of the prosthesis was performed for 4 patients. Follow-ups were uneventful in all 5 cases.

Conclusions. In the case of a poor response to adequate antimicrobial and surgical treatment in implant-associated staphylococcal infections, small colony variants should be considered and actively sought. In our case series, a 2-stage exchange without implantation of a spacer combined with antimicrobial therapy for an implant-free interval of 6–8 weeks was associated with successful outcome, with a mean follow-up of 24 months.

Journal Article.  3970 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Infectious Diseases ; Immunology ; Public Health and Epidemiology ; Microbiology

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