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Infection. 2009 Oct;37(5):450-4. doi: 10.1007/s15010-008-8335-1. Epub 2009 Mar 10.

Immuno-detection of Staphylococcus aureus biofilm on a cochlear implant.

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  • 1Geneva Cochlear Implant Centre, Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Head and Neck surgery-Service, Geneva University Hospitals, Switzerland.



A 46-year-old man suffering from progressive deafness since childhood received a Clarion 90 K cochlear implant with the HiRes preformed electrode in his left ear in October 2006. A persistent Staphylococcus aureus infection failed to be treated with corticoids, amoxicillin/ clavulanate, ciprofloxaxin, and rifampin. The processor was removed on July 2007.


The removed cochlear implant processor was treated with different reagents, with the aim of detecting a S. aureus and S. aureus biofilm: (1) fluorescein-coupled Fc of anti-human serum, (2) polyclonal anti-polysaccharide intercellular adhesion antibodies coupled to Alexa Fluor 568 goat anti-rabbit immunoglobulin (Ig)G, (3) crystal violet, (4) methylene blue, (5) acridine orange, (6) Gram stain, and (7) live/dead fluorescent stain.


S. aureus and the major constituent of the S. aureus biofilm, the polysaccharide intercellular adhesion, were detected on the surface of the implant. S. aureus was isolated after a simple contact between the implant and a solid growth medium. The ability of the isolated S. aureus strain to produce biofilm in vitro was confirmed.


S. aureus biofilm was documented on the implant. Initial bacterial colonization could be related to the pocket of the removable magnet. Colonies of S. aureus without biofilm were found attached to the electrode wire.


We report one case of a S. aureus biofilm infection documented on a cochlear implant, as assessed by immuno-microscopy. The biofilm was likely responsible for the persistent infection which manifested for many months after the implant surgery and could explain the unusual bacterial phenotypic resistance against administered antimicrobial agents.

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