Ultra-dense polymer brush coating reduces Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilms on medical implants and improves antibiotic treatment outcome

Sandra M Skovdal, Nis Pedersen Jørgensen, Eskild Petersen, Søren Jensen-Fangel, Ryosuke Ogaki, Guanghong Zeng, Mikkel Illemann Johansen, Mikala Wang, Holger Rohde, Rikke L Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Staphylococcal biofilm formation is a severe complication of medical implants, leading to high antibiotic tolerance and treatment failure. Ultra-dense poly(ethylene glycol) (udPEG) coating resists adsorption of proteins, polysaccharides and extracellular DNA. It is therefore uniquely resistant to attachment by Staphylococcus epidermidis, which remains loosely adhered to the surface. Our aim was to determine if S. epidermidis remains susceptible to antibiotics when adhering to udPEG, and if udPEG coatings can improve the treatment outcome for implant-associated infections. We tested the in vitro efficacy of vancomycin treatment on recently adhered S. epidermidis AUH4567 on udPEG, conventional PEG or titanium surfaces using live/dead staining and microscopy. udPEG was then applied to titanium implants and inserted subcutaneously in mice and inoculated with S. epidermidis to induce infection. Mice were given antibiotic prophylaxis or a short antibiotic treatment. One group was given immunosuppressive therapy. After five days, implants and surrounding tissue were harvested for CFU enumeration. Only few S. epidermidis cells adhered to udPEG compared to conventional PEG and uncoated titanium, and a much lower fraction of cells on udPEG survived antibiotic treatment in vitro. In vivo, the bacterial load on implants in mice receiving vancomycin treatment was significantly lower on udPEG-coated compared to uncoated implants, also in neutropenic mice. Our results suggest that the improved outcome results from the coating's anti-adhesive properties that leads to less biofilm and increased efficacy of antibiotic treatment. Thus, the combination of udPEG with antibiotics is a promising strategy to prevent acute implant-associated infections that arise due to perioperative contaminations.

STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Infections of medical implants is an ever-present danger. Here, bacteria develop biofilms that cannot be eradicated with antibiotics. By using an ultra-dense polymer-brush coating (udPEG), bacterial attachment and the subsequent biofilm formation can be reduced, resulting in increased antibiotic susceptibility of bacteria surrounding the implant. udPEG combined with antibiotics proved to significantly reduce bacteria on implants inserted into mice, in our animal model. As the coating is not antibacterial per se, it does not induce antimicrobial resistance and its effect is independent of the bacterial species. Our results are encouraging for the prospect of preventing and treating implant-associated infections that arise due to perioperative contaminations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Pages (from-to)46-55
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Biofilm
  • Implant-associated infection
  • PLL-g-PEG
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis
  • Titanium


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