Yucheng Jiao, Yazhou Lin, Yuehuan Zheng, Ye Yuan, Zhe Chen, Peng Cao

December 2019, Volume 28, Issue 12, pp 2941 - 2950 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-019-06062-6

First Online: 16 July 2019

The bacteria-positive proportion in the disc tissue samples from surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis


The role of bacteria, especially Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), in human intervertebral disc diseases has raised attention in recent years. However, limited sample size of these studies and diverse bacteria-positive proportion made this topic still controversial. We aimed to review related articles and summarize the bacteria-positive proportion in these studies.


We searched the PubMed, Cochrane Library, Embase for related literature from January 2001 to May 2018, and the reference articles were also searched. The random effects or fixed effects meta-analysis was used to pool the overall positive proportion or odds ratio of these studies.


We found 16 relevant articles and 2084 cases of the bacteria culture from surgery. Within the 16 included studies, 12 studies’ results supported the infection in the discs. The pooled bacterial infection rate was 25.3%. The pooled P. acnes infection rate was 15.5%. The overall pooled P. acnes proportion in bacteria-positive discs was 56.4%. We also found that the presence of bacteria may contribute to the development of Modic change with the odds ratio as 1.27 (95% CI: 0.44–3.64), but this result is not significant due to heterogeneity, so further study is needed.


The existence of bacteria in the intervertebral discs was proved by many studies. However, the variety in sample collecting and culture methods is still obvious and the positive rate also fluctuated within the studies. Standardized and reliable methods should be taken to promote the study in the future.

Graphic abstract

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