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Diagn Mol Pathol. 2005 Jun;14(2):83-9.

A molecular gram stain using broad range PCR and pyrosequencing technology: a potentially useful tool for diagnosing orthopaedic infections.

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Department of Anatomic Pathology, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.


The bacteria associated with orthopaedic infections are usually common gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. This fundamental grouping of bacteria is a necessary first step in the selection of appropriate antibiotics. Since polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is more rapid and may be more sensitive than culture, we developed a postamplification pyrosequencing method to subcategorize bacteria based on a few nucleotide polymorphisms in the 16S rRNA gene. We validated this method using well-characterized strains of bacteria and applied it to specimens from spinal surgery cases with suspected infections. Lysates of 114 bacteria including 75 species were created following standard cultivation to obtain DNA. The DNA was amplified by a broad-range real-time PCR. The amplicons were evaluated by pyrosequencing and were classified as gram-positive, gram-negative, or acid-fast bacilli based on the first three to five nucleotides sequenced. In addition, clinical cases of suspected infection were obtained from spinal surgery. The results of the "molecular Gram stain" were compared with the results of traditional Gram stain and culture. The lysates of 107 (93.9%) of the bacteria extracts tested were appropriately categorized as gram-positive and gram-negative or as acid-fast bacilli on the basis of this assay. The sensitivity and specificity of this assay were 100% and 97.4% for gram-positive and 88.3% and 100% for gram-negative isolates. All of the five clinical samples were appropriately categorized as containing gram-positive or gram-negative bacteria with this assay. This study demonstrates that high sensitivity and specificity of a molecular gram stain may be achieved using broad-range real-time PCR and pyrosequencing.

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