Rabbit model of Staphylococcus aureus implant-associated spinal infection

Oren Gordon, Robert J. Miller, John M. Thompson, Alvaro A. Ordonez, Mariah H. Klunk, Dustin A. Dikeman, Daniel P. Joyce, Camilo A. Ruiz-Bedoya, Lloyd S. Miller, Sanjay K. Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Post-surgical implant-associated spinal infection is a devastating complication commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Biofilm formation is thought to reduce penetration of antibiotics and immune cells, contributing to chronic and difficult-to-treat infections. A rabbit model of a posterior-approach spinal surgery was created, in which bilateral titanium pedicle screws were interconnected by a plate at the level of lumbar vertebra L6 and inoculated with a methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) bioluminescent strain. In vivo whole-animal bioluminescence imaging (BLI) and ex vivo bacterial cultures demonstrated a peak in bacterial burden by day 14, when wound dehiscence occurred. Structures suggestive of biofilm, visualized by scanning electron microscopy, were evident up to 56 days following infection. Infection-induced inflammation and bone remodeling were also monitored using 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT). PET imaging signals were noted in the soft tissue and bone surrounding the implanted materials. CT imaging demonstrated marked bone remodeling and a decrease in dense bone at the infection sites. This rabbit model of implant-associated spinal infection provides a valuable preclinical in vivo approach to investigate the pathogenesis of implant-associated spinal infections and to evaluate novel therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberdmm045385
JournalDMM Disease Models and Mechanisms
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Bioluminescence
  • Implant-associated infection
  • PET
  • Post-surgical infection
  • Spinal infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Microbiology (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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