Genotypic and Antimicrobial Characterisation of Propionibacterium acnes Isolates from Surgically Excised Lumbar Disc Herniations

Jess Rollason, A. McDowell, H.B. Albert, E. Barnard, T. Worthington, A.C. Hilton, A. Vernallis, S. Patrick, T. Elliott, P. Lambert

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    The anaerobic skin commensal Propionibacterium acnes is an underestimated cause of human infections and clinical conditions. Previous studies have suggested a role for the bacterium in lumbar disc herniation and infection. To further investigate this, five biopsy samples were surgically excised from each of 64 patients with lumbar disc herniation. P. acnes and other bacteria were detected by anaerobic culture, followed by biochemical and PCR-based identification. In total, 24/64 (38%) patients had evidence of P. acnes in their excised herniated disc tissue. Using recA and mAb typing methods, 52% of the isolates were type II (50% of culture-positive patients), while type IA strains accounted for 28% of isolates (42% of patients). Type III (11% isolates; 21% patients) and type IB strains (9% isolates; 17% patients) were detected less frequently. The MIC values for all isolates were lowest for amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, rifampicin, tetracycline and vancomycin (≤1mg/L). The MIC for fusidic acid was 1-2mg/L. The MIC for trimethroprim and gentamicin was 2 to ≥ 4 mg/L. The demonstration that type II and III strains, which are not frequently recovered from skin, predominated within our isolate collection (63%) suggests the role of P. acnes in lumbar disc herniation should not be readily dismissed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number530382
    JournalBioMed Research International
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Bibliographical note

    This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


    • Propionibacterium acnes
    • lumbar disc herniation
    • bacteria
    • infection


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