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      Realtime PCR Is More Sensitive than Multiplex PCR for Diagnosis and Serotyping in Children with Culture Negative Pneumococcal Invasive Disease


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          Pneumococcal serotyping is usually performed by Quellung reaction, considered the gold standard test. However the method cannot be used on culture-negative samples. Molecular methods can be a useful alternative. The aim of the study was to evaluate the use of Multiplex-sequential-PCR (MS-PCR) or Realtime-PCR on blood samples for diagnosis and serotyping of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) in a pediatric clinical setting.

          Methodology/Principal Findings

          Sensitivity and specificity of MS-PCR and Realtime-PCR have been evaluated both on 46 well characterized pneumococcal isolates and on 67 clinical samples from children with culture-negative IPD. No difference in sensitivity and specificity between MS-PCR and Realtime PCR was found when the methods were used on isolates: both methods could type 100% isolates and the results were always consistent with culture-based methods. On the contrary, when used on clinical samples 43/67 (64.2%) were typeable by MS-PCR and 61/67 (91.0%) by Realtime-PCR (p = 0.0004,K Cohen 0.3, McNemar's p<0.001). Non-typeability by MS-PCR was associated in 18/20 cases (90.0%) with low bacterial load. The difference between the two methods was present both when they were used on normally sterile fluids (respectively 31/33 (93.9%) typeable samples for Realtime-PCR and 24/33 (72.7%) for MS-PCR, p = 0.047, 95%CL 0.03–0.98; K Cohen 0.3; McNemar's p = 0.0016) and when they were used on nasopharyngeal swabs (respectively 30/34 (88.2%) typeable samples for Realtime-PCR and 19/34 (55.9%) for MS-PCR, p = 0.007, 95%CL 0.04–0.66); the presence of multiple pneumococcal serotypes in nasopharyngeal swabs was found more frequently by Realtime PCR (19/30; 63.3%) than by Multiplex-sequential PCR (3/19; 15.8%; p = 0.003;95%CL 1.87–39.97).


          In conclusion, both MS-PCR and Realtime PCR can be used for pneumococcal serotyping of most serotypes/serogroups directly on clinical samples from culture-negative patients but Realtime-PCR appears more sensitive.

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          Most cited references35

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          Evaluation and improvement of real-time PCR assays targeting lytA, ply, and psaA genes for detection of pneumococcal DNA.

          The accurate diagnosis of pneumococcal disease has frequently been hampered not only by the difficulties in obtaining isolates of the organism from patient specimens but also by the misidentification of pneumococcus-like viridans group streptococci (P-LVS) as Streptococcus pneumoniae. This is especially critical when the specimen comes from the respiratory tract. In this study, three novel real-time PCR assays designed for the detection of specific sequence regions of the lytA, ply, and psaA genes were developed (lytA-CDC, ply-CDC, and psaA, respectively). These assays showed high sensitivity (<10 copies for lytA-CDC and ply-CDC and an approximately twofold less sensitivity for psaA). Two additional real-time PCR assays for lytA and ply described previously for pneumococcal DNA detection were also evaluated. A panel of isolates consisting of 67 S. pneumoniae isolates (44 different serotypes and 3 nonencapsulated S. pneumoniae isolates from conjunctivitis outbreaks) and 104 nonpneumococcal isolates was used. The 67 S. pneumoniae isolates were reactive in all five assays. The new real-time detection assays targeting the lytA and psaA genes were the most specific for the detection of isolates confirmed to be S. pneumoniae, with lytA-CDC showing the greatest specificity. Both ply PCRs were positive for all isolates of S. pseudopneumoniae, along with 13 other isolates of other P-LVS isolates confirmed to be non-S. pneumoniae by DNA-DNA reassociation. Thus, the use of the ply gene for the detection of pneumococci can lead to false-positive reactions in the presence of P-LVS. The five assays were applied to 15 culture-positive cerebrospinal fluid specimens with 100% sensitivity; and serum and ear fluid specimens were also evaluated. Both the lytA-CDC and psaA assays, particularly the lytA-CDC assay, have improved specificities compared with those of currently available assays and should therefore be considered the assays of choice for the detection of pneumococcal DNA, particularly when upper respiratory P-LVS might be present in the clinical specimen.
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            Sequential multiplex PCR approach for determining capsular serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates.

            Accurate serotyping is essential to monitor the changes in the seroepidemiology of Streptococcus pneumoniae. We devised a simple and schematic sequence-based system of seven multiplex PCRs, in a sequence order based upon Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs) serotype distribution during 2002 to 2003, to reliably deduce specific pneumococcal serotypes. A total of 421 isolates from ABCs were randomly chosen to evaluate this system. Two hundred twenty-nine of the isolates (54.3%) were specifically assigned 1 of 17 serotypes by the multiplex PCR system, with the results in complete concordance with conventional serotyping. One hundred seventy-two additional isolates (40.9%) were assigned to 11 specific sets of 2 to 4 serotypes that with one exception (serotypes 6A and 6B) consisted of the single frequently occurring targeted serotype and 1 to 3 additional rare serotypes primarily within the same serogroup as the targeted serotype. Only 20 isolates (4.8%) could not be assigned specific serotypes or serotype sets, since they were either of rare serotypes not included in the assay design or were nonserotypeable. Overall, we found this system to be highly reliable, with the potential to greatly reduce our reliance upon conventional serotyping. Especially important is the capability of this system to give serotype-determining potential to any facility that lacks the expensive typing sera and expertise needed for conventional serotyping yet has the modest equipment necessary for DNA amplification and electrophoresis.
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              Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for childhood immunization--WHO position paper.


                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                19 February 2010
                : 5
                : 2
                : e9282
                [1]Department of Pediatrics, Anna Meyer Children's Hospital and University of Florence, Florence, Italy
                Columbia University, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: CA MR. Performed the experiments: MM GI MC CC LB FL. Analyzed the data: CA MM GI MC CC LB FL MdM MR. Wrote the paper: CA. Performed statistical analysis: CA. Supervised the study: MdM MR. Interpreted the results: MdM. Assisted in writing the manuscript: MR.

                Azzari et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                : 5 November 2009
                : 28 January 2010
                Page count
                Pages: 7
                Research Article
                Infectious Diseases
                Molecular Biology
                Evidence-Based Healthcare/Methods for Diagnostic and Therapeutic Studies
                Infectious Diseases/Bacterial Infections



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