Comparative analysis of single-species and polybacterial wound biofilms using a quantitative, in vivo, rabbit ear model

Akhil K. Seth, Matthew R. Geringer, Seok J. Hong, Kai P. Leung, Robert D. Galiano, Thomas A. Mustoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Introduction: The recent literature suggests that chronic wound biofilms often consist of multiple bacterial species. However, without appropriate in vivo, polybacterial biofilm models, our understanding of these complex infections remains limited. We evaluate and compare the effect of single- and mixed-species biofilm infections on host wound healing dynamics using a quantitative, in vivo, rabbit ear model. Methods: Six-mm dermal punch wounds in New Zealand rabbit ears were inoculated with Staphylococcus aureus strain UAMS-1, Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PAO1, or both, totaling 10∧6 colony-forming units/wound. Bacterial proliferation and maintenance in vivo were done using procedures from our previously published model. Wounds were harvested for histological measurement of wound healing, viable bacterial counts using selective media, or inflammatory cytokine (IL-1β, TNF-α) expression via quantitative reverse-transcription PCR. Biofilm structure was studied using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). For comparison, biofilm deficient mutant UAMS-929 replaced strain UAMS-1 in some mixed-species infections. Results: Bacterial counts verified the presence of both strains UAMS-1 and PAO1 in polybacterial wounds. Over time, strain PAO1 became predominant (p<0.001). SEM showed colocalization of both species within an extracellular matrix at multiple time-points. Compared to each monospecies infection, polybacterial biofilms impaired all wound healing parameters (p<0.01), and increased expression of IL-1β and TNF-α (p<0.05). In contrast, mixed-species infections using biofilm-deficient mutant UAMS-929 instead of wild-type strain UAMS-1 showed less wound impairment (p<0.01) with decreased host cytokine expression (p<0.01), despite a bacterial burden and distribution comparable to that of mixed-wild-type wounds. Conclusions: This study reveals that mixed-species biofilms have a greater impact on wound healing dynamics than their monospecies counterparts. The increased virulence of polybacterial biofilm appears dependent on the combined pathogenicity of each species, verified using a mutant strain. These data suggest that individual bacterial species can interact synergistically within a single biofilm structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere42897
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 8 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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