Development and first evaluation of a novel multiplex real-time PCR on whole blood samples for rapid pathogen identification in critically ill patients with sepsis

on behalf of the MARS consortium

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Molecular tests may enable early adjustment of antimicrobial therapy and be complementary to blood culture (BC) which has imperfect sensitivity in critically ill patients. We evaluated a novel multiplex real-time PCR assay to diagnose bloodstream pathogens directly in whole blood samples (BSI-PCR). BSI-PCR included 11 species- and four genus-specific PCRs, a molecular Gram-stain PCR, and two antibiotic resistance markers. We collected 5 mL blood from critically ill patients simultaneously with clinically indicated BC. Microbial DNA was isolated using the Polaris method followed by automated DNA extraction. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated using BC as reference. BSI-PCR was evaluated in 347 BC-positive samples (representing up to 50 instances of each pathogen covered by the test) and 200 BC-negative samples. Bacterial species-specific PCR sensitivities ranged from 65 to 100%. Sensitivity was 26% for the Gram-positive PCR, 32% for the Gram-negative PCR, and ranged 0 to 7% for yeast PCRs. Yeast detection was improved to 40% in a smaller set-up. There was no overall association between BSI-PCR sensitivity and time-to-positivity of BC (which was highly variable), yet Ct-values were lower for true-positive versus false-positive PCR results. False-positive results were observed in 84 (4%) of the 2200 species-specific PCRs in 200 culture-negative samples, and ranged from 0 to 6% for generic PCRs. Sensitivity of BSI-PCR was promising for individual bacterial pathogens, but still insufficient for yeasts and generic PCRs. Further development of BSI-PCR will focus on improving sensitivity by increasing input volumes and on subsequent implementation as a bedside test.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1344
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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