Characterisation of baseline microbiological and host factors in an inception cohort of people with surgical wounds healing by secondary intention reveals circulating IL-6 levels as a potential predictive biomarker of healing

Hannah Buckley, Jo Dumville, Michael Hodgkinson, Debbie Wearmouth, Gavin Barlow, Marjan van der Woude, Nicky Cullum, Ian Chetter*, Dimitris Lagos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: More than 2 million people per year are treated for surgical wounds in the UK. Over a quarter of these wounds are estimated to heal by secondary intention (from the "bottom up") resulting in further complications and requiring increased healthcare resources. Identification of microbiological or host biomarkers that can predict healing outcomes may help to optimize the management of surgical wounds healing by secondary intention. However, the microbial and host factor heterogeneity amongst this diverse population is completely unexplored. Methods: We demonstrate feasibility of determining presence and levels of wound microbes and systemic host factors in an inception cohort of 54 people presenting with surgical wounds healing by secondary intention, who were subsequently followed-up for a period of 12-21 months. We present descriptive statistics for plasma levels of inflammatory, angiogenic cytokines and microRNAs, and we identify a range of wound colonizing microbes. We tentatively explore association with healing aiming to generate hypotheses for future research. Results: We report a potential correlation between poor healing outcomes and elevated interleukin (IL)-6 plasma levels at presentation (ρ=0.13) which requires confirmation. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the degree of biological heterogeneity amongst people with surgical wounds healing by secondary intention and proves the feasibility of embedding a biomarker discovery study in a cohort study in surgical wounds. Our results are essential for designing large biomarker discovery studies to further investigate the potential validity of circulating IL-6 or other factors as novel predictive biomarkers of healing for surgical wounds healing by secondary intention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number80
Number of pages10
JournalWellcome Open Research
Issue number80
Early online date22 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright: © 2020 Buckley H et al.


  • Surgical wounds
  • Biomarkers
  • IL-6
  • Microbiology
  • Bacteria
  • Healing

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