Bacterial content of the human pancreatic duct: An observational study

Demir, E., Yilmaz, B. S., Jager, C., Rothe, K., Schorn, S., Pergolini, I., Goss, R., Safak, O., Wilhelm, D., Martignoni, M. E., Novotny, A. R., Friess, H., Ceyhan, G. O., and Demir, I. E. (2022). Heliyon 8, e11771. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e11771


Background: Pancreatic fistula/PF is a challenging surgical complication. We could recently show that intestinal bacteria such as Enterobacterales colonize the PF fluid even after a "sterile" operation like distal pancreatectomy/DP. Therefore, we explored the bacterial flora of the human pancreatic duct in a patient collective undergoing pancreatic surgery.

Methods: In this observational study, upon transection of the pancreas during surgery, a swab was inserted into the main duct, and the micro-organismal content was correlated with clinical characteristics.

Results: Between February 2017 and February 2020, an intraoperative swab from the pancreatic duct was obtained from a total of 54 patients who underwent pancreatico-duodenectomy/PD or DP. The swabs were sterile in 39 cases (72.2%), detected intestinal bacteria in 10 cases (18.5%), and other bacteria in 5 cases (9.3%). There was no correlation of the micro-organismal content of the pancreatic duct swab with bacteria detected in the PF fluid or bile. Preoperative ERCP was associated with a higher frequency of bacterial colonization of the pancreatic duct (33.3% vs. 6.7%, p = 0.005). There was no correlation of the pancreatic duct swabs with postoperative complications.

Discussion: The human main pancreatic duct is usually sterile, and its bacterial colonization does not correlate with the occurrence of PF. Therefore, the mechanisms leading to infection of PF warrant in-depth, mechanistic investigation.