Biofilms in chronic wounds


Reprint requests:
Garth James, Center for Biofilm Engineering, 366 EPS Building, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717.
Tel: 406-994-2542;
Fax: 406-994-6098;


Chronic wounds including diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers, and venous leg ulcers are a worldwide health problem. It has been speculated that bacteria colonizing chronic wounds exist as highly persistent biofilm communities. This research examined chronic and acute wounds for biofilms and characterized microorganisms inhabiting these wounds. Chronic wound specimens were obtained from 77 subjects and acute wound specimens were obtained from 16 subjects. Culture data were collected using standard clinical techniques. Light and scanning electron microscopy techniques were used to analyze 50 of the chronic wound specimens and the 16 acute wound specimens. Molecular analyses were performed on the remaining 27 chronic wound specimens using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and sequence analysis. Of the 50 chronic wound specimens evaluated by microscopy, 30 were characterized as containing biofilm (60%), whereas only one of the 16 acute wound specimens was characterized as containing biofilm (6%). This was a statistically significant difference (p<0.001). Molecular analyses of chronic wound specimens revealed diverse polymicrobial communities and the presence of bacteria, including strictly anaerobic bacteria, not revealed by culture. Bacterial biofilm prevalence in specimens from chronic wounds relative to acute wounds observed in this study provides evidence that biofilms may be abundant in chronic wounds.