Impact of oleic acid (cis-9-octadecenoic acid) on bacterial viability and biofilm production in Staphylococcus aureus


  • Editor: Mark Schembri

Correspondence: Patrice Francois, Genomic Research Laboratory, Infectious Diseases Service, Geneva University Hospitals. CH-1211 Geneva 14, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 22 372 9338; fax: +41 22 372 9830; e-mail:


Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for a broad variety of chronic infections. Most S. aureus clinical isolates show the capacity to adhere to abiotic surfaces and to develop biofilms. Because S. aureus growing in a biofilm is highly refractory to treatment, inhibition of biofilm formation represents a major therapeutic objective. We evaluated the effects of oleic acid on primary adhesion and biofilm production in eight genotypically different S. aureus strains as well as in the biofilm-negative Staphylococcus carnosus strain TM300. Oleic acid inhibited primary adhesion but increased biofilm production in every S. aureus strain tested. Staphylococcus aureus strain UAMS-1 was then selected as a model organism for studying the mechanisms triggered by oleic acid on the formation of a biofilm in vitro. Oleic acid inhibited the primary adhesion of UAMS-1 dose dependently with an IC50 around 0.016%. The adherent bacterial population decreased proportionally with increasing concentrations of oleic acid whereas an opposite effect was observed on the planktonic population. Overall, the total bacterial counts remained stable. Macroscopic detachments and clumps were visible from the adherent bacterial population. In the presence of oleic acid, the expression of sigB, a gene potentially involved in bacterial survival through an effect on fatty acid composition, was not induced. Our results suggest a natural protective effect of oleic acid against primary adhesion.