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      Rapid semi-automated quantitative multiplex tandem PCR (MT-PCR) assays for the differential diagnosis of influenza-like illness


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          Influenza A, including avian influenza, is a major public health threat in developed and developing countries. Rapid and accurate detection is a key component of strategies to contain spread of infection, and the efficient diagnosis of influenza-like-illness is essential to protect health infrastructure in the event of a major influenza outbreak.


          We developed a multiplexed PCR (MT-PCR) assay for the simultaneous diagnosis of respiratory viruses causing influenza-like illness, including the specific recognition of influenza A haemagglutinin subtypes H1, H3, and H5. We tested several hundred clinical specimens in two diagnostic reference laboratories and compared the results with standard techniques.


          The sensitivity and specificity of these assays was higher than individual assays based on direct antigen detection and standard PCR against a range of control templates and in several hundred clinical specimens. The MT-PCR assays provided differential diagnoses as well as potentially useful quantitation of virus in clinical samples.


          MT-PCR is a potentially powerful tool for the differential diagnosis of influenza-like illness in the clinical diagnostic laboratory.

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          Most cited references27

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          Avian influenza A (H5N1) infection in humans.

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            Comparison of the Luminex xTAG respiratory viral panel with in-house nucleic acid amplification tests for diagnosis of respiratory virus infections.

            Detection of respiratory viruses using sensitive real-time nucleic acid amplification tests (NATs) is invaluable for patient and outbreak management. However, the wide range of potential respiratory virus pathogens makes testing using individual real-time NATs expensive and laborious. The objective of this study was to compare the detection of respiratory virus targets using the Luminex xTAG respiratory viral panel (RVP) assay with individual real-time NATs used at the Provincial Laboratory of Public Health, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The study included 1,530 specimens submitted for diagnosis of respiratory infections from December 2006 to May 2007. Direct-fluorescent-antigen-positive nasopharyngeal samples were excluded from this study. A total of 690 and 643 positives were detected by RVP and in-house NATs, respectively. Kappa correlation between in-house NATs and RVP for all targets ranged from 0.721 to 1.000. The majority of specimens missed by in-house NATs (96.7%) were positive for picornaviruses. Samples missed by RVP were mainly positive for adenovirus (51.7%) or respiratory syncytial virus (27.5%) by in-house NATs and in general had low viral loads. RVP allows for multiplex detection of 20 (and differentiation between 19) respiratory virus targets with considerable time and cost savings compared with alternative NATs. Although this first version of the RVP assay has lower sensitivity than in-house NATs for detection of adenovirus, it has good sensitivity for other targets. The identification of picornaviruses and coronaviruses and concurrent typing of influenza A virus by RVP, which are not currently included in our diagnostic testing algorithm, will improve our diagnosis of respiratory tract infections.
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              Rapid multiplex nested PCR for detection of respiratory viruses.

              Respiratory tract infections can be caused by a heterogeneous group of viruses and bacteria that produce similar clinical presentations. Specific diagnosis therefore relies on laboratory investigation. This study developed and evaluated five groups of multiplex nested PCR assays that could simultaneously detect 21 different respiratory pathogens: influenza A virus (H1N1, H3N2, and H5N1); influenza B virus; parainfluenza virus types 1, 2, 3, 4a, and 4b; respiratory syncytial virus A and B; human rhinoviruses; human enteroviruses; human coronaviruses OC43 and 229E; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus; human metapneumoviruses; Mycoplasma pneumoniae; Chlamydophila pneumoniae; Legionella pneumophila; and adenoviruses (A to F). These multiplex nested PCRs adopted fast PCR technology. The high speed of fast PCR (within 35 min) greatly improved the efficiency of these assays. The results show that these multiplex nested PCR assays are specific and more sensitive (100- to 1,000-fold) than conventional methods. Among the 303 clinical specimens tested, the multiplex nested PCR achieved an overall positive rate of 48.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 42.9 to 54.1%), which was significantly higher than that of virus isolation (20.1% [95% CI, 15.6 to 24.6%]) and that of direct detection by immunofluorescence assay (13.5% [95% CI, 9.7 to 17.4%]). The improved sensitivity was partly due to the higher sensitivity of multiplex nested PCR than that of conventional methods in detecting cultivatable viruses. Moreover, the ability of the multiplex nested PCR to detect noncultivatable viruses, particularly rhinoviruses, coronavirus OC43, and metapneumoviruses, contributed a major gain (15.6%) in the overall positive rate. In conclusion, rapid multiplex nested PCR assays can improve the diagnostic yield for respiratory infections to allow prompt interventive actions to be taken.

                Author and article information

                BMC Infect Dis
                BMC Infectious Diseases
                BioMed Central
                11 May 2010
                : 10
                : 113
                [1 ]AusDiagnostics Pty Ltd, 3/36 O'Riordan Street, Alexandria, NSW 2015, Australia
                [2 ]Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, University of Sydney, Westmead Hospital, Westmead NSW 2145, Australia
                [3 ]Institute for Clinical Pathology and Medical Research, Westmead Hospital Westmead NSW 2145, Australia
                [4 ]Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, Frome Road, Adelaide, SA 5000; Australia
                Copyright ©2010 Szewczuk et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 23 April 2009
                : 11 May 2010
                Technical Advance

                Infectious disease & Microbiology
                Infectious disease & Microbiology


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