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Sci Rep. 2018 May 3;8(1):6964. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-25129-w.

Molecular detection of fungal pathogens in clinical specimens by 18S rDNA high-throughput screening in comparison to ITS PCR and culture.

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Institute of Medical Microbiology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, Graz, Austria.
Institute of Medical Microbiology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


The rising incidence of invasive fungal infections and the expanding spectrum of fungal pathogens makes early and accurate identification of the causative pathogen a daunting task. Diagnostics using molecular markers enable rapid identification of fungi, offer new insights into infectious disease dynamics, and open new possibilities for infectious disease control and prevention. We performed a retrospective study using clinical specimens (N = 233) from patients with suspected fungal infection previously subjected to culture and/or internal transcribed spacer (ITS) PCR. We used these specimens to evaluate a high-throughput screening method for fungal detection using automated DNA extraction (QIASymphony), fungal ribosomal small subunit (18S) rDNA RT-PCR and amplicon sequencing. Fungal sequences were compared with sequences from the curated, commercially available SmartGene IDNS database for pathogen identification. Concordance between 18S rDNA RT-PCR and culture results was 91%, and congruence between 18S rDNA RT-PCR and ITS PCR results was 94%. In addition, 18S rDNA RT-PCR and Sanger sequencing detected fungal pathogens in culture negative (N = 13) and ITS PCR negative specimens (N = 12) from patients with a clinically confirmed fungal infection. Our results support the use of the 18S rDNA RT-PCR diagnostic workflow for rapid and accurate identification of fungal pathogens in clinical specimens.

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