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2.  Silica Desiccant Packets for Storage and Transport of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Other Clinically Relevant Species 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72353.
Bacterial isolates are often transported between laboratories for research and diagnostic purposes. Silica desiccant packets (SDPs), which are inexpensive and do not require freezing, were evaluated for storage and recovery of bacterial isolates. Conditions such as inoculum size, swab type and temperature of storage were investigated using ten Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates. The optimized protocol was then tested using 49 additional S. pneumoniae isolates representing 40 serogroups. Overall, S. pneumoniae growth was considered satisfactory (>100 colony forming units) for 98/109 (89.9%) and 20/20 (100%) swabs after 14 days at room temperature or 28 days at 4° C, respectively. Storage in SDPs did not impact on the ability of S. pneumoniae isolates to be subsequently serotyped. When the survival of nine other clinically relevant bacterial species was tested, seven were viable after 28 days at room temperature, the exceptions being Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Haemophilus influenzae. SDPs are suitable for transport and short-term storage of bacterial species including S. pneumoniae.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072353
PMCID: PMC3737130  PMID: 23940811
3.  Detection of group a streptococcal pharyngitis by quantitative PCR 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:312.
Background
Group A streptococcus (GAS) is the most common bacterial cause of sore throat. School-age children bear the highest burden of GAS pharyngitis. Accurate diagnosis is difficult: the majority of sore throats are viral in origin, culture-based identification of GAS requires 24–48 hours, and up to 15% of children are asymptomatic throat carriers of GAS. The aim of this study was to develop a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay for detecting GAS pharyngitis and assess its suitability for clinical diagnosis.
Methods
Pharyngeal swabs were collected from children aged 3–18 years (n = 91) and adults (n = 36) located in the Melbourne area who presented with sore throat. Six candidate PCR assays were screened using a panel of reference isolates, and two of these assays, targeting speB and spy1258, were developed into qPCR assays. The qPCR assays were compared to standard culture-based methods for their ability to detect GAS pharyngitis. GAS isolates from culture positive swabs underwent emm-typing. Clinical data were used to calculate McIsaac scores as an indicator of disease severity.
Results
Twenty-four of the 127 samples (18.9%) were culture-positive for GAS, and all were in children (26%). The speB qPCR had 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity compared with gold-standard culture, whereas the spy1258 qPCR had 87% sensitivity and 100% specificity. Nine different emm types were found, of which emm 89, 3, and 28 were most common. Bacterial load as measured by qPCR correlated with culture load. There were no associations between symptom severity as indicated by McIsaac scores and GAS bacterial load.
Conclusions
The speB qPCR displayed high sensitivity and specificity and may be a useful tool for GAS pharyngitis diagnosis and research.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-312
PMCID: PMC3711935  PMID: 23844865
4.  Production of latex agglutination reagents for pneumococcal serotyping 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:49.
Background
The current ‘gold standard’ for serotyping pneumococci is the Quellung test. This technique is laborious and requires a certain level of training to correctly perform. Commercial pneumococcal latex agglutination serotyping reagents are available, but these are expensive. In-house production of latex agglutination reagents can be a cost-effective alternative to using commercially available reagents. This paper describes a method for the production and quality control (QC) of latex reagents, including problem solving recommendations, for pneumococcal serotyping.
Results
Here we describe a method for the production of latex agglutination reagents based on the passive adsorption of antibodies to latex particles. Sixty-five latex agglutination reagents were made using the PneuCarriage Project (PCP) method, of which 35 passed QC. The other 30 reagents failed QC due to auto-agglutination (n=2), no reactivity with target serotypes (n=8) or cross-reactivity with non-target serotypes (n=20). Dilution of antisera resulted in a further 27 reagents passing QC. The remaining three reagents passed QC when prepared without centrifugation and wash steps. Protein estimates indicated that latex reagents that failed QC when prepared using the PCP method passed when made with antiserum containing ≤ 500 μg/ml of protein. Sixty-one nasopharyngeal isolates were serotyped with our in-house latex agglutination reagents, with the results showing complete concordance with the Quellung reaction.
Conclusions
The method described here to produce latex agglutination reagents allows simple and efficient serotyping of pneumococci and may be applicable to latex agglutination reagents for typing or identification of other microorganisms. We recommend diluting antisera or removing centrifugation and wash steps for any latex reagents that fail QC. Our latex reagents are cost-effective, technically undemanding to prepare and remain stable for long periods of time, making them ideal for use in low-income countries.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-49
PMCID: PMC3570367  PMID: 23379961
Latex agglutination; Serotyping; Streptococcus pneumoniae
5.  Effect of Pneumococcal Vaccination on Nasopharyngeal Carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Staphylococcus aureus in Fijian Children 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(3):1034-1038.
The 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) reduces carriage of vaccine type Streptococcus pneumoniae but leads to replacement by nonvaccine serotypes and may affect carriage of other respiratory pathogens. We investigated nasopharyngeal carriage of S. pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Staphylococcus aureus in Fijian infants participating in a pneumococcal vaccine trial using quantitative PCR. Vaccination did not affect pathogen carriage rates or densities, whereas significant differences between the two major ethnic groups were observed.
doi:10.1128/JCM.06589-11
PMCID: PMC3295152  PMID: 22170924
6.  Multilocus Sequence Typing of Streptococcus pneumoniae by Use of Mass Spectrometry ▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2011;49(11):3756-3760.
Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) is an important tool for the global surveillance of bacterial pathogens that is performed by comparing the sequences of designated housekeeping genes. We developed and tested a novel mass spectrometry-based method for MLST of Streptococcus pneumoniae. PCR amplicons were subjected to in vitro transcription and base-specific cleavage, followed by analysis of the resultant fragments by using matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS). Comparison of the cleavage fragment peak patterns to a reference sequence set permitted automated identification of alleles. Validation experiments using 29 isolates of S. pneumoniae revealed that the results of MALDI-TOF MS MLST matched those obtained by traditional sequence-based MLST for 99% of alleles and that the MALDI-TOF MS method accurately identified two single-nucleotide variations. The MADLI-TOF MS method was then used for MLST analysis of 43 S. pneumoniae isolates from Papua New Guinean children. The majority of the isolates present in this population were not clonal and contained seven new alleles and 30 previously unreported sequence types.
doi:10.1128/JCM.05113-11
PMCID: PMC3209096  PMID: 21880964
7.  Molecular Surveillance of True Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae: An Evaluation of PCR Screening Assays 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34083.
Background
Unambiguous identification of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) is not possible by conventional microbiology. Molecular characterisation of phenotypically defined NTHi isolates suggests that up to 40% are Haemophilus haemolyticus (Hh); however, the genetic similarity of NTHi and Hh limits the power of simple molecular techniques such as PCR for species discrimination.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we assess the ability of previously published and novel PCR-based assays to identify true NTHi. Sixty phenotypic NTHi isolates, classified by a dual 16S rRNA gene PCR algorithm as NTHi (n = 22), Hh (n = 27) or equivocal (n = 11), were further characterised by sequencing of the 16S rRNA and recA genes then interrogated by PCR-based assays targeting the omp P2, omp P6, lgtC, hpd, 16S rRNA, fucK and iga genes. The sequencing data and PCR results were used to define NTHi for this study. Two hpd real time PCR assays (hpd#1 and hpd#3) and the conventional iga PCR assay were equally efficient at differentiating study-defined NTHi from Hh, each with a receiver operator characteristic curve area of 0.90 [0.83; 0.98]. The hpd#1 and hpd#3 assays were completely specific against a panel of common respiratory bacteria, unlike the iga PCR, and the hpd#3 assay was able to detect below 10 copies per reaction.
Conclusions/Significance
Our data suggest an evolutionary continuum between NTHi and Hh and therefore no single gene target could completely differentiate NTHi from Hh. The hpd#3 real time PCR assay proved to be the superior method for discrimination of NTHi from closely related Haemophilus species with the added potential for quantification of H. influenzae directly from specimens. We suggest the hpd#3 assay would be suitable for routine NTHi surveillance and to assess the impact of antibiotics and vaccines, on H. influenzae carriage rates, carriage density, and disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034083
PMCID: PMC3314702  PMID: 22470516

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