The ability of rabbits to clear an intraperitoneal injection of in the presence or absence of a surgically implanted peritoneal device was investigated. Sham-operated rabbits without an implant eliminated a challenge of 5 × 10 cfu/ml; lavage fluid and peritoneal tissues became culture-negative within 96 h. However, peritonitis developed in rabbits that were given the same number of bacteria in the presence of an implant; high bacterial counts were recovered from the lavage fluid and the device itself. Scanning and transmission electronmicroscopy revealed bacterial biofilms on the surface of the device. Insertion of pre-colonised devices demonstrated a rapid multiplication of sessile organisms within the resulting bacterial biofilm. Counts reached a plateau of about 1 × 10 cfu/cm of Silastic by day 16 and fluctuated around this level until the end of the study. Pre-immunisation with formalin-killed whole cells of did not reduce this bacterial growth despite high levels of specific IgG. The results confirm the failure of peritoneal defences to clear an infection in the presence of an implant following either challenge with planktonic bacteria or insertion of a pre-colonised device, and demonstrate the rapid development of bacterial biofilms on the surface of the implant which appear to protect the bacteria from host defences, even when primed by pre-immunisation.


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