The rapid identification of bacteria and fungi directly from the blood of patients with suspected bloodstream infections aids in diagnosis and guides treatment decisions. The development of an automated, rapid, and sensitive molecular technology capable of detecting the diverse agents of such infections at low titers has been challenging, due in part to the high background of genomic DNA in blood. PCR followed by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS) allows for the rapid and accurate identification of microorganisms but with a sensitivity of about 50% compared to that of culture when using 1-ml whole-blood specimens. Here, we describe a new integrated specimen preparation technology that substantially improves the sensitivity of PCR/ESI-MS analysis. An efficient lysis method and automated DNA purification system were designed for processing 5 ml of whole blood. In addition, PCR amplification formulations were optimized to tolerate high levels of human DNA. An analysis of 331 specimens collected from patients with suspected bloodstream infections resulted in 35 PCR/ESI-MS-positive specimens (10.6%) compared to 18 positive by culture (5.4%). PCR/ESI-MS was 83% sensitive and 94% specific compared to culture. Replicate PCR/ESI-MS testing from a second aliquot of the PCR/ESI-MS-positive/culture-negative specimens corroborated the initial findings in most cases, resulting in increased sensitivity (91%) and specificity (99%) when confirmed detections were considered true positives. The integrated solution described here has the potential to provide rapid detection and identification of organisms responsible for bloodstream infections.
Diverse viruses often reactivate in or infect cancer patients, patients with immunocompromising infections or genetic conditions, and transplant recipients undergoing immunosuppressive therapy. These infections can disseminate, leading to death, transplant rejection, and other severe outcomes.
We describe an assay which uses broad-spectrum, conserved-site PCR paired with mass spectrometry analysis of amplicons (PCR/electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry [ESI-MS]) to detect and identify diverse bacterial and Candida species in uncultured specimens. The performance of the assay was characterized using whole-blood samples spiked with low titers of 64 bacterial species and 6 Candida species representing the breadth of coverage of the assay. The assay had an average limit of detection of 100 CFU of bacteria or Candida per milliliter of blood, and all species tested yielded limits of detection between 20 and 500 CFU per milliliter. Over 99% of all detections yielded correct identifications, whether they were obtained at concentrations well above the limit of detection or at the lowest detectable concentrations. This study demonstrates the ability of broad-spectrum PCR/ESI-MS assays to detect and identify diverse organisms in complex natural matrices that contain high levels of background DNA.
The application of molecular diagnostic methods may improve the timeliness and accuracy with which fungi are identified. A total of 76 well-characterized reference strains of clinically relevant Candida species and 61 clinical Candida isolates were tested by repetitive sequence PCR (rep-PCR) and PCR followed by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS) and results compared against internal transcribed spacer (ITS) ribosomal RNA gene sequencing as a reference standard. Both rep-PCR and PCR/ESI-MS correctly identified 51 isolates to the species level. When method performance was evaluated based only on genospecies included in the reference libraries, both methods yielded an accuracy of 98.1%. It may be concluded that rep-PCR and PCR/ESI-MS are highly effective at identifying clinical isolates of Candida to the species level. These methods hold promise for improving the speed and accuracy of identification of Candida spp. in clinical mycology laboratories.
Technology for comprehensive identification of biothreats in environmental and clinical specimens is needed to protect citizens in the case of a biological attack. This is a challenge because there are dozens of bacterial and viral species that might be used in a biological attack and many have closely related near-neighbor organisms that are harmless. The biothreat agent, along with its near neighbors, can be thought of as a biothreat cluster or a biocluster for short. The ability to comprehensively detect the important biothreat clusters with resolution sufficient to distinguish the near neighbors with an extremely low false positive rate is required. A technological solution to this problem can be achieved by coupling biothreat group-specific PCR with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS). The biothreat assay described here detects ten bacterial and four viral biothreat clusters on the NIAID priority pathogen and HHS/USDA select agent lists. Detection of each of the biothreat clusters was validated by analysis of a broad collection of biothreat organisms and near neighbors prepared by spiking biothreat nucleic acids into nucleic acids extracted from filtered environmental air. Analytical experiments were carried out to determine breadth of coverage, limits of detection, linearity, sensitivity, and specificity. Further, the assay breadth was demonstrated by testing a diverse collection of organisms from each biothreat cluster. The biothreat assay as configured was able to detect all the target organism clusters and did not misidentify any of the near-neighbor organisms as threats. Coupling biothreat cluster-specific PCR to electrospray ionization mass spectrometry simultaneously provides the breadth of coverage, discrimination of near neighbors, and an extremely low false positive rate due to the requirement that an amplicon with a precise base composition of a biothreat agent be detected by mass spectrometry.
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