Effect of low intensity pulsed ultrasound therapy on Staphylococcus aureus biofilms

Jerry Tsang, Peter Gwynne, Maurice Gallagher, Hamish Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review


Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for 60–70% infections of surgical implants and prostheses in Orthopaedic surgery, costing the NHS £120–200 million per annum. Its ability to develop resistance or tolerance to a diverse range of antimicrobial compounds, threatens to halt routine elective implant surgery. One strategy to overcome this problem is to look beyond traditional antimicrobial drug therapies and investigate other treatment modalities. Biophysical modalities, such as ultrasound, are poorly explored, but preliminary work has shown potential benefit, especially when combined with existing antibiotics.

Using a methicillin-sensitive S. aureus reference strain and the dissolvable bead assay, biofilms were challenged by a low-intensity ultrasound (1.5MHz, 30mW/cm2, pulse duration 200µs/1KHz) for 20 minutes and gentamicin. The outcome measures were colony-forming units/mL (CFU/mL) and the minimum biofilm eradication concentration (MBEC) of gentamicin. The mean number of S. aureus within control biofilms was 1.04 × 109 CFU/mL. There was no clinically or statistically significant (p=0.531) reduction in viable S. aureus following ultrasound therapy alone. The MBEC of gentamicin for this S. aureus strain was 256 mg/L. The MBEC of gentamicin with the addition of ultrasound was 64mg/L. Further studies confirmed that the mechanism of action was due to incomplete disruption of the extracellular matrix with subsequent metabolic stimulation of the dormant biofilm-associated bacteria due to increased nutrient availability and oxygen tension.

Low intensity pulsed ultrasound was associated with a 4-fold reduction in the effective biofilm eradication concentration of gentamicin; bringing the MBEC of gentamicin to within clinically achievable concentrations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
JournalOrthopaedic Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2019


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