Biofilm formation by Staphylococcus capitis strains isolated from contaminated platelet concentrates

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Bacterial contamination of platelet concentrates (PCs) poses the greatest infectious risk in modern transfusion medicine despite the implementation of measures such as improved skin disinfection and first aliquot diversion. The majority of PC contaminants are commensal skin flora introduced by venipuncture at the time of blood collection. The predominant organisms are Gram-positive coagulase-negative staphylococci such as Staphylococcus capitis. This bacterium has been implicated in numerous instances of infection and sepsis, likely for its ability to form surface-associated communities of micro-organisms encased in extracellular materials, known as biofilms. In the present study, five strains of S. capitis isolated from contaminated PCs were assessed for their ability to produce extracellular polysaccharide (slime), a canonical indicator of biofilm-formation ability, on Congo red agar plates. Biofilm formation was evaluated in both glucose-enriched trypticase soy broth (TSBg) and in PCs by using a crystal violet staining assay. The chemical nature of the biofilms was evaluated by disruption assays using sodium metaperiodate and proteinase K. In addition, biofilm architecture was observed by scanning electron microscopy. The presence of the biofilm-associated icaR and icaADBC genes was also examined by PCR. While only two out of the five S. capitis strains formed biofilms in TSBg, all strains formed biofilms in PCs. The ability of strains to produce extracellular polysaccharide and their possession of wild-type ica genes were not exclusive predictors of biofilm formation in TSBg or PCs; different profiles of biofilm markers were observed among isolates. This is likely due to the proteinaceous composition of the S. capitis biofilm matrix. Interestingly, an ica-negative, non-slime-producing isolate was capable of biofilm formation in PCs. Together, these data indicate that the platelet storage environment stimulates biofilm formation in S. capitis in the absence of extracellular polysaccharide production and that multiple bacterial factors and regulatory elements are likely involved in biofilm formation in this milieu.

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