Anoxia inhibits biofilm development and modulates antibiotic activity

Donavon J. Hess, Michelle J. Henry-Stanley, Elizabeth R. Lusczek, Gregory J. Beilman, Carol L. Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Many infections involve bacterial biofilms that are notoriously antibiotic resistant. Unfortunately, the mechanism for this resistance is unclear. We tested the effect of oxygen concentration on development of Staphylococcus aureus biofilms, and on the ability of gentamicin and vancomycin to inhibit biofilm development. Materials and methods: To mimic catheter-associated biofilms, silastic coupons were inoculated with 10 7 S aureus and incubated either aerobically (∼21% O2) or anaerobically (10% CO2, 5% H2, 85% N2) for 16 h at 37 °C with varying concentrations of gentamicin and vancomycin. Viable colony-forming units were quantified from sonicated biofilms, and the crystal violet assay quantified biofilm biomass. Metabolomic profiles probed biochemical differences between aerobic and anaerobic biofilms. Results: Control biofilms (no antibiotic) cultivated aerobically contained 8.1-8.6 log10 S aureus. Anaerobiasis inhibited biofilm development, quantified by viable bacterial numbers and biomass (P < 0.05). Bactericidal concentrations of gentamicin inhibited biofilm development in normoxia but not anoxia, likely because bacterial uptake of gentamicin is oxygen dependent. The inhibitory effect of vancomycin was more uniform aerobically and anaerobically, although at high bactericidal concentrations, vancomycin effectiveness was decreased under anoxia. There were notable differences in the metabolomic profiles of biofilms cultivated under normoxia versus anoxia. Conclusions: Compared with aerobic incubation, anaerobiasis resulted in decreased biofilm development, and metabolomics is a promising tool to identify key compounds involved in biofilm formation. The effectiveness of a specific antibiotic depended on its mode of action, as well as on the oxygen concentration in the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)488-494
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by U.S. National Institutes of Health Grant R01 GM095553 and in part by funds from the Department of Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota . We also thank the University of Minnesota Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facility, with funding provided by NSF grant BIR-961477 , the University of Minnesota Medical School , and the Minnesota Medical Foundation . We wish to acknowledge the excellent technical assistance of Milena Sivertson.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Anoxia
  • Biofilm
  • Gentamicin
  • Metabolomics
  • Normoxia
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Vancomycin


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