Relationship between annular tear and presence of Propionibacterium acnes in lumbar intervertebral disc.

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European spine journal : official publication of the European Spine Society, the European Spinal Deformity Society, and the European Section of the Cervical Spine Research Society


PURPOSE: Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) in the intervertebral disc may result in low back pain. The purpose of this study was to determine how P. acnes accesses the disc.

METHODS: Patients with low back pain and/or sciatica were examined using X-ray and MRI before surgery. The intervertebral disc space height was measured on X-ray image. Disc and muscle samples were obtained from 46 patients undergoing discectomy at the lumbar spine. The tear of annulus was inspected before discectomy. In the disc and muscle tissue cultures, 16S rDNA gene specific for P. acnes was examined using PCR.

RESULTS: The discs from 11 (23.9 %) patients were identified as 16S rDNA positive, in which two patients also had 16S rDNA in their muscles. 16S rDNA gene was significantly more likely to appear in the discs with annular tear than those without tear (P < 0.05). The disc space height was significantly decreased when the disc contained P. acnes.

CONCLUSION: P. acnes is significantly more likely to be present in herniated discs with an annular tear than in herniated discs without such a tear. Since in the vast majority of these cases, no P. acnes was found in control muscle samples, a true infection with P. acnes is far more likely than a contamination.

Medical Subject Headings

Adult; Aged; DNA, Bacterial; Diskectomy; Female; Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections; Humans; Intervertebral Disc; Intervertebral Disc Displacement; Low Back Pain; Lumbar Vertebrae; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Male; Middle Aged; Propionibacterium acnes; RNA, Ribosomal, 16S; Radiography; Sciatica; Young Adult

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