Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository

    Bacterial culture underestimates lung pathogen detection and infection status in cystic fibrosis

    Gavillet, Helen ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0815-830X, Hatfield, Lauren ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7513-3014, Rivett, Damian ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1852-6137, Jones, Andrew, Maitra, Anirban, Horsley, Alexander and van der Gast, Christopher ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1101-4048 (2022) Bacterial culture underestimates lung pathogen detection and infection status in cystic fibrosis. Microbiology Spectrum, 10 (5). e0041922-e0041922. ISSN 2165-0497

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    Microbiological surveillance of airway secretions is central to clinical care in cystic fibrosis (CF). However, the efficacy of microbiological culture, the diagnostic gold standard for pathogen detection, has been increasingly questioned. Here we compared culture with targeted quantitative PCR (QPCR) for longitudinal detection of 2 key pathogens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Prospectively collected respiratory samples taken from 20 pediatric and 20 adult CF patients over a period of 3-years were analyzed. Patients were eligible if considered free of chronic Pseudomonas infection within 12-months prior to start of study. QPCR revealed high levels of infection with both pathogens not apparent from culture alone. Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus were detected by culture on at least one sampling occasion in 12 and 29 of the patients, respectively. Conversely, both pathogens were detected in all 40 patients by QPCR. Classification of infection status also significantly altered in both pediatric and adult patients, where the number of patients deemed chronically infected with Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus increased from 1 to 28 and 9 to 34, respectively. Overall, Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus infection status classification changed respectively for 36 and 27 of all patients. In no cases did molecular identification lead to a patient being in a less clinically serious infection category. Pathogen detection and infection status classification significantly increased when assessed by QPCR in comparison to culture. This could have implications for clinical care of CF patients, including accuracy of infection diagnosis, relevant and timely antibiotic selection, antimicrobial resistance development, establishment of chronic infection, and cross-infection control. <b>IMPORTANCE</b> Chronic lung infection is the leading cause of morbidity and early mortality for people with cystic fibrosis (pwCF). Microbiological surveillance to detect lung pathogens is recommended as best practise in CF patient care. Here we studied pathogen detection in 40 pwCF over several years. We found that microbiological culture, the diagnostic gold standard, was significantly disparate to targeted culture-independent approaches for detection and determination of chronic infection status of two important pathogens in CF. Pathogen detection was significantly lower by culture and consequently infection status was also misclassified in most cases. In particular, the extent of chronic infection by both P. aeruginosa and S. aureus not realized with culture was striking. Our findings have implications for the development of infection and clinical care of pwCF. Future longitudinal studies with greater patient numbers will be needed to establish the full extent of the clinical implications indicated from this study.

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