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Low concentrations of vancomycin stimulate biofilm formation in some clinical isolates of Staphylococcus epidermidis
  1. J S Cargill,
  2. M Upton
  1. Department of Microbiology, School of Translational Medicine, University of Manchester School of Medicine, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to James S Cargill, Department of Microbiology, Leeds General Infirmary, Old Medical School, Thoresby Place, Leeds LS1 3EX, UK; jamescargill{at}


Aims: To examine the response of Staphylococcus epidermidis isolates from prosthetic orthopaedic infections to vancomycin concentrations below the minimum inhibitory concentration.

Methods: Staphylococcal biofilms were grown in 96-well flat-bottomed cell culture plates under a variety of culture conditions and stained using an ammonium crystal violet solution. Optical density (450 nm wavelength) was recorded to estimate the biofilm density for each strain. Population analysis and time-kill studies were also performed on selected isolates.

Results: A range of responses were observed, including increased biofilm density at drug concentrations approaching the minimum inhibitory concentration. This increased density was associated with the presence of a more resistant population identified on population analysis but without an apparent effect on the time-kill curves.

Conclusions: The ability of some strains to show increased biofilm density could be a factor in the failure of vancomycin therapy reported in some cases. The demonstration that low concentrations of vancomycin may increase the density of newly forming S epidermidis biofilms may indicate an area of potential concern in the use of vancomycin in orthopaedic implants and intravascular catheter locks, and may partially account for some cases of treatment failure.

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  • Part of this work was presented at the 15th European Congress on Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Copenhagen, 2005, and at the 156th Meeting of the Society for General Microbiology, Edinburgh, 2005

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.