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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Jun;72(6):4256-63.

Internally controlled real-time PCR method for quantitative species-specific detection and vapA genotyping of Rhodococcus equi.

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  • 1Bacterial Molecular Pathogenesis Group, Faculty of Medical and Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Langford, United Kingdom.


We developed a novel quantitative real-time PCR (Q-PCR) method for the soil actinomycete Rhodococcus equi, an important horse pathogen and emerging human pathogen. Species-specific quantification was achieved by targeting the chromosomal monocopy gene choE, universally conserved in R. equi. The choE Q-PCR included an internal amplification control (IAC) for identification of false negatives. A second Q-PCR targeted the virulence plasmid gene vapA, carried by most horse isolates but infrequently found in isolates from other sources. The choE-IAC and vapA assays were 100% sensitive and specific as determined using 178 R. equi isolates, 77 nontarget bacteria, and a panel of 60 R. equi isolates with known vapA+ and vapA-negative (including vapB+) plasmid genotypes. The vapA+ frequency among isolate types was as follows: horse, 85%; human, 20%; bovine and pig, 0%; others, 27%. The choE-IAC Q-PCR could detect up to one genome equivalent using R. equi DNA or 100 bacteria/ml using DNA extracted from artificially contaminated horse bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid. Quantification was linear over a 6-log dynamic range down to approximately 10 target molecules (or 1,000 CFU/ml BAL fluid) with PCR efficiency E of >0.94. The vapA assay had similar performance but appeared unsuitable for accurate (vapA+) R. equi quantification due to variability in target gene or plasmid copy number (1 to 9). The dual-reaction Q-PCR system here reported offers a useful tool to both medical and veterinary diagnostic laboratories for the quantitative detection of R. equi and (optional) vapA+ "horse-pathogenic" genotype determination.

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