Bone and Joint Institute

Neer Award 2017: A rapid method for detecting Propionibacterium acnes in surgical biopsy specimens from the shoulder

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Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery

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© 2017 Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Board of Trustees Background Propionibacterium (P) acnes infection of the shoulder after arthroplasty is a common and serious complication. Current detection methods for P acnes involve anaerobic cultures that require prolonged incubation periods (typically 7-14 days). We have developed a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) approach that sensitively and specifically identifies P acnes in tissue specimens within a 24-hour period. Methods Primers were designed to amplify a unique region of the 16S rRNA gene in P acnes that contained a unique HaeIII restriction enzyme site. PCR and RFLP analyses were optimized to detect P acnes DNA in in vitro cultures and in arthroscopic surgical biopsy specimens from patients with P acnes infections. Results A 564 base-pair PCR amplicon was derived from all of the known P acnes strains. HaeIII digests of the amplicon yielded a restriction fragment pattern that was unique to P acnes. P acnes-specific amplicons were detected in as few as 10 bacterial cells and in clinical biopsy specimens of infected shoulder tissues. Conclusion This PCR-RFLP assay combines the sensitivity of PCR with the specificity of RFLP mapping to identify P acnes in surgical isolates. The assay is robust and rapid, and a P acnes-positive tissue specimen can be confirmed within 24 hours of sampling, facilitating treatment decision making, targeted antibiotic therapy, and monitoring to minimize implant failure and revision surgery.

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