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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 804391, 10 pages
Review Article

Propionibacterium acnes: An Underestimated Pathogen in Implant-Associated Infections

1Microbiology Laboratory, Laboratori de Referencia de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
2Service de Bactériologie-Hygiène, CHU de Nantes, Institut de Biologie, Nantes Cedex, France
3Université de Nantes, EA3826, Thérapeutiques Cliniques et Expérimentales des Infections, 1 rue G. Veil, 44000 Nantes, France
4Orthopedic Septic Surgical Unit, Department of Surgery and Anesthesiology, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland
5Center for Musculoskeletal Surgery, Charité-University Medicine Berlin, Free University and Humboldt University, Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Received 11 January 2013; Revised 20 August 2013; Accepted 4 October 2013

Academic Editor: Andrew McDowell

Copyright © 2013 María Eugenia Portillo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The role of Propionibacterium acnes in acne and in a wide range of inflammatory diseases is well established. However, P. acnes is also responsible for infections involving implants. Prolonged aerobic and anaerobic agar cultures for 14 days and broth cultures increase the detection rate. In this paper, we review the pathogenic role of P. acnes in implant-associated infections such as prosthetic joints, cardiac devices, breast implants, intraocular lenses, neurosurgical devices, and spine implants. The management of severe infections caused by P. acnes involves a combination of antimicrobial and surgical treatment (often removal of the device). Intravenous penicillin G and ceftriaxone are the first choice for serious infections, with vancomycin and daptomycin as alternatives, and amoxicillin, rifampicin, clindamycin, tetracycline, and levofloxacin for oral treatment. Sonication of explanted prosthetic material improves the diagnosis of implant-associated infections. Molecular methods may further increase the sensitivity of P. acnes detection. Coating of implants with antimicrobial substances could avoid or limit colonization of the surface and thereby reduce the risk of biofilm formation during severe infections. Our understanding of the role of P. acnes in human diseases will likely continue to increase as new associations and pathogenic mechanisms are discovered.