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Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014

News

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Fighting artificial joint infections

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

By Mark Roth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For several years, Elton Petersen has lived with two artificial hips.

But that's not his biggest challenge.

The problem that sometimes tests the 83-year-old Mt. Lebanon man's natural ebullience is a persistent infection in his left hip implant.

And by persistent, we mean an infection that has lasted for eight solid years and has forced three subsequent surgeries to try to correct the problem.

Bacterial infections in artificial hips and knees are relatively rare -- about 1 to 4 percent nationally -- but when they occur, they can be devilishly hard to get rid of, say Nicholas Sotereanos, Mr. Petersen's orthopedic surgeon, and William Costerton, a bacteria research pioneer, both based at Allegheny General Hospital.

Bacterial infections in artificial joints form slimy colonies called biofilms that are largely impervious to standard antibiotics, Dr. Costerton said. Making matters worse for Mr. Petersen is the fact that his infection is MRSA -- methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus -- that requires newer, more powerful antibiotics.

As Dr. Sotereanos put it, though, even newer antibiotics like vancomycin "can't penetrate the slime layer of the mothership" colony in Mr. Petersen's hip, "and so that mothership will remain in Elton forever."

Dr. Costerton and his colleagues at the Center for Genomic Sciences at the Allegheny-Singer Research Institute are on a quest to prevent or eradicate these artificial joint infections.

 

To read more, visit the Post-Gazette website.

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