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J Mater Sci Mater Med. 2011 Dec;22(12):2773-80. doi: 10.1007/s10856-011-4445-x. Epub 2011 Sep 22.

Mechanical effects, antimicrobial efficacy and cytotoxicity of usnic acid as a biofilm prophylaxis in PMMA.

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  • 1Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


Experiments were performed to test the null hypothesis that the addition of a natural occurring antibiotic would not alter mechanical properties of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Compression and four-point bending tests were used to assess mechanical properties of zirconium dioxide bearing bone cement (Type Zr) and barium sulfate bearing bone cement (Type Ba), mixed with the antibiotic usnic acid ("usnic"), used to create a surface resistant to biofilm formation. Addition of usnic had a statistically significant effect on the material properties. Compressive and bending strengths decreased as usnic was added and Type Zr was stronger than Type Ba although material properties remained above recommended minima. With implications of liver toxicity with large doses of usnic taken as a dietary supplement, cytotoxicity tests using bone cement coupons were performed and showed very little or no toxicity in primary cultures of rabbit skin derived fibroblasts. A simple test of usnic's efficacy as a biofilm prophylaxis in PMMA was also conducted. Bone cement coupons with usnic were tested for their effectiveness against methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Diminished biofilm formation on usnic-containing coupons indicated that usnic can be an effective anti-microbial agent.

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