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.
Invasive fungal infections are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality among immunocompromised patients. Early and accurate identification of these pathogens is central to direct therapy and to improve overall outcome. PCR coupled with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS) was evaluated as a novel means for identification of fungal pathogens. Using a database grounded by 60 ATCC reference strains, a total of 394 clinical fungal isolates (264 molds and 130 yeasts) were analyzed by PCR/ESI-MS; results were compared to phenotypic identification, and discrepant results were sequence confirmed. PCR/ESI-MS identified 81.4% of molds to either the genus or species level, with concordance rates of 89.7% and 87.4%, respectively, to phenotypic identification. Likewise, PCR/ESI-MS was able to identify 98.4% of yeasts to either the genus or species level, agreeing with 100% of phenotypic results at both the genus and species level. PCR/ESI-MS performed best with Aspergillus and Candida isolates, generating species-level identification in 94.4% and 99.2% of isolates, respectively. PCR/ESI-MS is a promising new technology for broad-range detection and identification of medically important fungal pathogens that cause invasive mycoses.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis that is resistant to both isoniazid (INH) and rifampin (RIF) is spreading. It has become a public health problem in part because the standard culture methods used to determine the appropriate treatment regimen for patients often take months following the presumptive diagnosis of tuberculosis. Furthermore, the misidentification of nontuberculosis mycobacteria (NTM) in patients presumably suffering from tuberculosis results in additional human and health care costs. The mechanisms of resistance for several drugs used to treat Mycobacterium tuberculosis are well understood and therefore should be amenable to determination by rapid molecular methods. We describe here the use of PCR followed by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS) in an assay that simultaneously determines INH and RIF resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis and identifies and determines the species of NTMs. The assay panel included 16 primer pairs in eight multiplexed reactions and was validated using a collection of 1,340 DNA samples from cultured specimens collected in the New York City area, the Republic of Georgia, and South Africa. Compared with phenotypic data, the PCR/ESI-MS assay had 89.3% sensitivity and 95.8% specificity in the determination of INH resistance and 96.3% sensitivity and 98.6% specificity in the determination of RIF resistance. Based on a set of 264 previously characterized liquid culture specimens, the PCR/ESI-MS method had 97.0% sensitivity and 99.9% specificity for determination of NTM identity. The assay also provides information on ethambutol, fluoroquinolone, and diarylquinoline resistance and lineage-specific polymorphisms, to yield highly discriminative digital signatures potentially suitable for epidemiology tracking.
Flaviviruses are a highly diverse group of RNA viruses classified within the genus Flavivirus, family Flaviviridae. Most flaviviruses are arthropod-borne, requiring a mosquito or tick vector. Several flaviviruses are highly pathogenic to humans; however, their high genetic diversity and immunological relatedness makes them extremely challenging to diagnose. In this study, we developed and evaluated a broad-range Flavivirus assay designed to detect both tick- and mosquito-borne flaviviruses by using RT-PCR/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (RT-PCR/ESI-MS) on the Ibis T5000 platform. The assay was evaluated with a panel of 13 different flaviviruses. All samples were correctly identified to the species level. To determine the limit of detection for the mosquito-borne primer sets, serial dilutions of RNA from West Nile virus (WNV) were assayed and could be detected down to an equivalent viral titer of 0.2 plaque-forming units/mL. Analysis of flaviviruses in their natural biological background included testing Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that were laboratory-infected with dengue-1 virus. The assay accurately identified the virus within infected mosquitoes, and we determined the average viral genome per mosquito to be 2.0 x 10(6). Using human blood, serum, and urine spiked with WNV and mouse blood and brain tissues from Karshi virus-infected mice, we showed that these clinical matrices did not inhibit the detection of these viruses. Finally, we used the assay to test field-collected Ixodes scapularis ticks collected from sites in New York and Connecticut. We found 16/322 (5% infection rate) ticks positive for deer tick virus, a subtype of Powassan virus. In summary, we developed a single high-throughput Flavivirus assay that could detect multiple tick- and mosquito-borne flaviviruses and thus provides a new analytical tool for their medical diagnosis and epidemiological surveillance.
As pulmonary fungal infections continue to increase due to an increasing number of immunocompromised patients, rapid detection and accurate identification of these fungal pathogens are critical. A broad fungal assay was developed by incorporating broad-range multilocus PCR amplification and electrospray ionization/mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS) to detect and identify fungal organisms directly from clinical specimens. The aims of this study were to evaluate the performance of PCR/ESI-MS for detection, identification, and determination of the distribution of fungal organisms in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid specimens. The BAL fluid specimens submitted for fungal culture at Vanderbilt University Medical Center between May 2005 and October 2011 were included. Cultures and identification were done using standard procedures. In addition, DNA was extracted from BAL fluid specimens, and fungal DNA amplification/identification were performed by PCR/ESI-MS. The results were compared with those of the standard cultures. A total of 691 nonduplicated BAL fluid specimens with sufficient leftover volume for molecular testing were evaluated using PCR/ESI-MS. Among them, 134 specimens (19.4%) were positive for fungi by both culture and PCR/ESI-MS testing. Of the dual-positive specimens, 125 (93.3%) were positive for Candida and Aspergillus species, with concordances between culture and PCR/ESI-MS results being 84 (67.2%) at the species level and 109 (87.2%) at the genus level. In addition, 243 (35.2%) and 30 (4.3%) specimens were positive only by PCR/ESI-MS or by culture, respectively (odds ratio [OR] = 11.95, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 7.90 to 18.17, P = 0.0000). Codetection of fungal organisms was noted in 23 (3.3%) specimens by PCR/ESI-MS, which was significantly higher than the 4 (0.6%) in which they were noted by culture (OR = 5.91, 95% CI = 1.93 to 20.27, P = 0.0002). Among 53 specimens in which cultures failed because of bacterial overgrowth, at least one fungus was identified in 26 specimens (47.3%) by PCR/ESI-MS. PCR/ESI-MS provides an advanced tool for rapid and sensitive detection, identification, and determination of the distribution of fungal organisms directly from BAL fluid specimens. Moreover, it detected fungal organisms in specimens in which cultures failed because of bacterial overgrowth. The clinical relevance of the significantly higher detection rate of fungal organisms by PCR/ESI-MS merits further investigation.
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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