Propionibacterium acnes associated with inflammation in radical prostatectomy specimens: a possible link to cancer evolution?

Ronald J Cohen, Beverley A Shannon, John E McNeal, Tom Shannon, Kerryn L Garrett
Journal of Urology 2005, 173 (6): 1969-74

PURPOSE: Inflammation is commonly observed in the prostate gland and has been implicated in the development of prostate cancer. The etiology of prostatic inflammation is unknown. However, the involvement of a carcinogenic infectious agent has been suggested.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Prostatic tissue from 34 consecutive patients with prostate cancer was cultured to detect the presence of bacterial agents. Prostatic inflammation was assessed by histological examination of wholemount tissue sections.

RESULTS: The predominant microorganism detected was Propionibacterium acnes, found in 35% of prostate samples. A significantly higher degree of prostatic inflammation was observed in cases culture positive for P. acnes (p =0.007). P. acnes was separated into 3 groups based on cell surface properties, phenotype and genetic grouping. All skin control isolates were classified as group 1 whereas most prostatic isolates were classified as groups 2 and 3.

CONCLUSIONS: P. acnes has been isolated from prostatic tissues in men who underwent radical prostatectomy for localized cancer and has been shown to be positively associated with prostatic inflammation. This inflammation may then be linked to the evolution of carcinoma. Furthermore, organisms infecting these patients with prostate cancer differ genetically and phenotypically from the commonly identified cutaneous P. acnes isolates, suggesting that specific subtypes may be involved in development of prostatic inflammation.

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