Animal models of orthopaedic infections. A review of rabbit models used to induce long bone bacterial infections

Marta Bottagisio, Cristin Coman, Arianna B. Lovati

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The development of infections is one of the main complications in orthopaedics, especially in the presence of implants for the osteosynthesis of compound fractures and joint prosthesis. Indeed, foreign materials and implants act as substrates for the adhesion and proliferation of bacterial strains able to produce biofilm, causing peri-implant osteomyelitis. The eradication of biofilm remains a great challenge for the host immune system, as well as for medical and surgical approaches, thus imposing the need for new prophylactic and/or therapeutic strategies in which animal models have an essential role. In vivo orthopaedic models have mainly been used to study the pathogenesis of infections, biofilm behaviour and the efficacy of antimicrobial strategies, to select diagnostic techniques and test the efficacy of novel materials or surface modifications to impede both the establishment of bone infections and the associated septic loosening of implants. Among several models of osteomyelitis and implant-related infections described in small rodents and large animals, the rabbit has been widely used as a reliable and reproducible model of orthopaedic infections. This review examines the relevance of rabbits for the development of clinically representative models by analysing the pros and cons of the different approaches published in the literature. This analysis will aid in increasing our knowledge concerning orthopaedic infections by using this species. This review will be a tool for researchers who need to approach pre-clinical studies in the field of bone infection and have to identify the most appropriate animal model to verify their scientific hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number000952
Pages (from-to)506-537
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Medical Microbiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2019


  • Biofilm
  • Implant-related infections
  • Orthopaedic infections
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Rabbit models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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