Vancomycin tolerance of adherent Staphylococcus aureus is impeded by nanospike-induced physiological changes

Andrew Hayles, Richard Bright, Ngoc Huu Nguyen, Vi Khanh Truong, Jonathan Wood, Dennis Palms, Jitraporn Vongsvivut, Dan Barker, Krasimir Vasilev

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Bacterial colonization of implantable biomaterials is an ever-pervasive threat that causes devastating infections, yet continues to elude resolution. In the present study, we report how a rationally designed antibacterial surface containing sharp nanospikes can enhance the susceptibility of pathogenic bacteria to antibiotics used in prophylactic procedures. We show that Staphylococcus aureus, once adhered to a titanium surface, changes its cell-surface charge to increase its tolerance to vancomycin. However, if the Ti surface is modified to bear sharp nanospikes, the activity of vancomycin is rejuvenated, leading to increased bacterial cell death through synergistic activity. Analysis of differential gene expression provided evidence of a set of genes involved with the modification of cell surface charge. Synchrotron-sourced attenuated Fourier-transform infrared microspectroscopy (ATR-FTIR), together with multivariate analysis, was utilized to further elucidate the biochemical changes of S. aureus adhered to nanospikes. By inhibiting the ability of the pathogen to reduce its net negative charge, the nanoengineered surface renders S. aureus more susceptible to positively charged antimicrobials such as vancomycin. This finding highlights the opportunity to enhance the potency of prophylactic antibiotic treatments during implant placement surgery by employing devices having surfaces modified with spike-like nanostructures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number90
Number of pages11
Journalnpj Biofilms and Microbiomes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023


  • Microbiology
  • Biomaterials
  • Antibiotic tolerance


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