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J Clin Microbiol. 2010 Oct;48(10):3551-7. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01053-10. Epub 2010 Aug 18.

Containment of bioaerosol infection risk by the Xpert MTB/RIF assay and its applicability to point-of-care settings.

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  • 1New Jersey Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, NJ 07103, USA.


The recently introduced Xpert MTB/RIF assay (Xpert) has point-of-care potential, but its capacity for biohazard containment remained to be studied. We compared the bioaerosols generated by the Xpert assay to acid-fast bacillus (AFB) microscope slide smear preparation. The Xpert assay sample treatment reagent (SR) was also studied for its sterilizing capacity, stability, and effect on assay sensitivity after prolonged treatment. During the preparation of AFB smears, sputum samples spiked with Mycobacterium bovis BCG at 5 × 10(8) CFU/ml produced 16 and 325 CFU/m(3) air measured with an Andersen impactor or BioSampler, respectively. In contrast, neither the sample preparation steps for the Xpert assay nor its automated processing produced any culturable bioaerosols. In testing of SR sterilizing capacity, clinical sputum samples from strongly smear-positive tuberculosis patients treated with SR at a 2:1 ratio eliminated Mycobacterium tuberculosis growth in all but 1/39 or 3/45 samples cultured on solid or liquid medium, respectively. These few unsterilized samples had a mean 13.1-day delay in the time to positive culture. SR treatment at a 3:1 ratio eliminated growth in all samples. SR retained a greater than 6-log-unit killing capacity despite storage at temperatures spanning 4 to 45°C for at least 3 months. The effect of prolonged SR sample treatment was also studied. Spiked sputum samples could be incubated in SR for up to 3 days without affecting Xpert sensitivity for M. tuberculosis detection and up to 8 h without affecting specificity for rifampin resistance detection. These results suggest that benchtop use of the Xpert MTB/RIF assay limits infection risk to the user.

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