The presence of biofilm structures in atherosclerotic plaques of arteries from legs amputated as a complication of diabetic foot ulcers

D. E. Snow, J. Everett, G. Mayer, S. B. Cox, B. Miller, K. Rumbaugh, R. A. Wolcott, R. D. Wolcott

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6 Scopus citations


Objective: Atherosclerosis, rather than microcirculatory impairment caused by endothelial cell dysfunction, is the main driver of circulatory compromise in patients with diabetic limbs. The presence of atherosclerotic plaque at the trifurcation is a significant contributor to amputation of diabetic legs. The presence of bacteria and other microorganisms in atherosclerotic plaque has long been known, however, the cause of chronic inflammation and the role of bacteria/viruses in atherosclerosis have not been studied in detail. The objective of this study was to clarify the cause of the chronic inflammation within atherosclerotic plaques, and determine if any bacteria and/or viruses are involved in the inflammatory pathway. Method: This study uses fluorescence microscopy and fluorescence in-situ hybridisation (FISH) to identify components of biofilm in atherosclerotic arteries. These tools are also used to identify individual bacteria, and determine the architectural spatial location within the atherosclerotic plaque where the bacteria can be found. Results: The results indicate that the presence of biofilms in grossly involved arteries may be an important factor in chronic inflammatory pathways of atherosclerotic progression, in the amputated limbs of patients with diabetic foot ulcers and vascular disease. Conclusion: While the presence of bacterial biofilm structures in atherosclerotic plaque does not prove that biofilm is the proximate cause of atherosclerosis, it could contribute to the persistent inflammation associated with it. Second, the synergistic relationship between the atherosclerotic infection and the diabetic foot ulcer may ultimately contribute to higher amputation rates in diabetics. Declaration of interest: RAW and RDW have equity interest in PathoGenius, a clinical laboratory using DNA to identify microbes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S16-S22
JournalJournal of Wound Care
StatePublished - Feb 2016


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Atherosclerotic plaque
  • Biofilm
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Fluorescence in-situ hybridisation (FISH)


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