Bacterial biofilm formation on indwelling urethral catheters

H Pelling, J Nzakizwanayo, S Milo, E L Denham, W M MacFarlane, L J Bock, J M Sutton, B V Jones

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Urethral catheters are the most commonly deployed medical devices and used to manage a wide range of conditions in both hospital and community care settings. The use of long-term catheterization, where the catheter remains in place for a period >28 days remains common, and the care of these patients is often undermined by the acquisition of infections and formation of biofilms on catheter surfaces. Particular problems arise from colonization with urease-producing species such as Proteus mirabilis, which form unusual crystalline biofilms that encrust catheter surfaces and block urine flow. Encrustation and blockage often lead to a range of serious clinical complications and emergency hospital referrals in long-term catheterized patients. Here we review current understanding of bacterial biofilm formation on urethral catheters, with a focus on crystalline biofilm formation by P. mirabilis, as well as approaches that may be used to control biofilm formation on these devices. Significance and Impact of the Study: Urinary catheters are the most commonly used medical devices in many healthcare systems, but their use predisposes to infection and provide ideal conditions for bacterial biofilm formation. Patients managed by long-term urethral catheterization are particularly vulnerable to biofilm-related infections, with crystalline biofilm formation by urease producing species frequently leading to catheter blockage and other serious clinical complications. This review considers current knowledge regarding biofilm formation on urethral catheters, and possible strategies for their control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-293
Number of pages17
JournalLetters in Applied Microbiology
Issue number4
Early online date27 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Proteus mirabilis
  • Urinary tract infection
  • biofilms
  • catheters
  • Catheters, Indwelling/microbiology
  • Urinary Catheterization/adverse effects
  • Urinary Tract Infections/microbiology
  • Humans
  • Proteus mirabilis/growth & development
  • Biofilms/growth & development
  • Urinary Catheters/microbiology
  • Phage Therapy/methods
  • Proteus Infections
  • Urease/therapeutic use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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