Cells and Materials


A major complication of long-term urethral catheterization is catheter blockage by encrustation. We have examined 20 encrusted catheters and in each case crystal formation was associated with the presence of bacterial biofilms on the luminal surfaces. Scanning electron microscopy and X-ray microanalysis indicated the presence of struvite and hydroxyapatite in the biofilms. Urease producing bacteria were colonizing 16 of the catheters. Proteus mirabilis was the commonest species being recovered from ten of the catheters. These results support the hypothesis that catheter encrustation has a similar etiology to that of infection-induced urinary stones and confirm that the important target for any attempt to control catheter encrustations is Pr. mirabilis.