Whether Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) causes surgical-site infections (SSI) after orthopedic surgery is controversial. We previously reported that we frequently find P. acnes in intraoperative specimens, yet none of the patients have clinically apparent infections. Here, we tracked P. acnes for 6 months in a mouse osteomyelitis model. We inoculated P. acnes with an implant into the mouse femur in the implant group; the control group was treated with the bacteria but no implant. We then observed over a 6-month period using optical imaging system. During the first 2 weeks, bacterial signals were detected in the femur in the both groups. The bacterial signal completely disappeared in the control group within 28 days. Interestingly, in the implant group, bacterial signals were still present 6 months after inoculation. Histological and scanning electron-microscope analyses confirmed that P. acnes was absent from the control group 6 months after inoculation, but in the implant group, the bacteria had survived in a biofilm around the implant. PCR analysis also identified P. acnes in the purulent effusion from the infected femurs in the implant group. To our knowledge, this is the first report showing that P. acnes causes SSI only in the presence of an implant.
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