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Burns. 2008 Mar;34(2):205-11. Epub 2007 Nov 26.

Short- and long-term bacterial inhibiting effect of high concentrations of glycerol used in the preservation of skin allografts.

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Department of Microbiology, University Hospitals Leuven, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Herestraat 49, B-3000, Leuven, Belgium.


Human skin allografts are important in the treatment of severe burns. Transplantation of skin allografts can cause bacterial transmission. Glycerol in higher concentrations is an appropriate storage medium for allograft cadaver skin and has been attributed an antimicrobial effect. We investigated this effect in more detail. First, the minimal inhibitory concentration of glycerol was determined for 13 bacteria and 1 yeast. This gives an indication about an immediate (20h of incubation) antibacterial effect of glycerol. Second, effect of glycerol in the long-term was studied. Therefore, the survival time was determined for 11 different bacteria suspended in different concentrations of glycerol (50% and 85%) and incubated at three temperatures (4, 24, and 36 degrees C). The minimal inhibitory concentration exceeded 256microg/mL, thus glycerol had no direct inhibitory effect. In contrast, a long-term antimicrobial effect was present and more pronounced at higher concentrations of glycerol and higher temperatures of incubation. The mean survival time of Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains in glycerol 85% at 24 degrees C was 2.6 days, 14.7 days for the tested staphylococci and 29.6 days for three vegetative Bacillus species. In conclusion, microbial safety of glycerol-preserved skin can be increased by preserving skin allografts for some weeks at room temperature.

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