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J Clin Microbiol. 2010 Feb;48(2):503-11. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01761-09. Epub 2009 Dec 2.

Identification of pathogenic Nocardia species by reverse line blot hybridization targeting the 16S rRNA and 16S-23S rRNA gene spacer regions.

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Life Science College, Peking University, Beijing, People's Republic of China.


Although 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis is employed most often for the definitive identification of Nocardia species, alternate molecular methods and polymorphisms in other gene targets have also enabled species determinations. We evaluated a combined Nocardia PCR-based reverse line blot (RLB) hybridization assay based on 16S and 16S-23S rRNA gene spacer region polymorphisms to identify 12 American Type Culture Collection and 123 clinical Nocardia isolates representing 14 species; results were compared with results from 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Thirteen 16S rRNA gene-based (two group-specific and 11 species-specific) and five 16S-23S spacer-targeted (two taxon-specific and three species-specific) probes were utilized. 16S rRNA gene-based probes correctly identified 124 of 135 isolates (sensitivity, 92%) but were unable to identify Nocardia paucivorans strains (n = 10 strains) and a Nocardia asteroides isolate with a novel 16S rRNA gene sequence. Nocardia farcinica and Nocardia cyriacigeorgica strains were identified by the sequential use of an N. farcinica-"negative" probe and a combined N. farcinica/N. cyriacigeorgica probe. The assay specificity was high (99%) except for weak cross-reactivity between the Nocardia brasiliensis probe with the Nocardia thailandica DNA product; however, cross-hybridization with closely related nontarget species may occur. The incorporation of 16S-23S rRNA gene spacer-based probes enabled the identification of all N. paucivorans strains. The overall sensitivity using both probe sets was >99%. Both N. farcinica-specific 16S-23S rRNA gene spacer-directed probes were required to identify all N. farcinica stains by using this probe set. The study demonstrates the utility of a combined PCR/RLB assay for the identification of clinically relevant Nocardia species and its potential for studying subtypes of N. farcinica. Where species assignment is ambiguous or not possible, 16S rRNA gene sequencing is recommended.

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