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J Clin Microbiol. 2010 Nov;48(11):4140-6. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01124-10. Epub 2010 Sep 22.

Improved detection of five major gastrointestinal pathogens by use of a molecular screening approach.

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Laboratory for Infectious Diseases, Department of Research & Development, Groningen, Netherlands.


The detection of bacterial and parasitic gastrointestinal pathogens through culture and microscopy is laborious and time-consuming. We evaluated a molecular screening approach (MSA) for the detection of five major enteric pathogens: Salmonella enterica, Campylobacter jejuni, Giardia lamblia, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), and Shigella spp./enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC), for use in the daily practice of a clinical microbiology laboratory. The MSA consists of prescreening of stool specimens with two real-time multiplex PCR (mPCR) assays, which give results within a single working day, followed by guided culture/microscopy of the positive or mPCR-inhibited samples. In the present 2-year overview, 28,185 stool specimens were included. The MSA was applied to 13,974 stool samples (49.6%), whereas 14,211 samples were tested by conventional methods only (50.4%). The MSA significantly increased the total detection rate compared to that of conventional methods (19.2% versus 6.4%). The detection of all included pathogens, with the exception of S. enterica, significantly improved. MSA detection frequencies were as follows: C. jejuni, 8.1%; G. lamblia, 4.7%; S. enterica, 3.0%; STEC, 1.9%; and Shigella spp./EIEC, 1.4%. The guided culture/microscopy was positive in 76.8%, 58.1%, 88.9%, 16.8%, and 18.1% of mPCR-positive specimens, respectively. Of all mPCRs, only 1.8% was inhibited. Other findings were that detection of mixed infections was increased (0.9% versus 0.02%) and threshold cycle (C(T)) values for MSA guided culture/microscopy-positive samples were significantly lower than those for guided culture/microscopy-negative samples. In conclusion, an MSA for detection of gastrointestinal pathogens resulted in markedly improved detection rates and a substantial decrease in time to reporting of (preliminary) results.

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