Diagnosis of Clostridium difficile: real-time PCR detection of toxin genes in faecal samples is more sensitive compared to toxigenic culture

Mie Birgitte Frid Jensen, Katharina E. P. Olsen, Xiaohui Chen Nielsen, Anne Mette Hoeg, Ram Benny Dessau, Tove Atlung, Jørgen Engberg

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    The diagnosis of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) requires the detection of toxigenic C. difficile or its toxins and a clinical assessment. We evaluated the performance of four nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) detecting toxigenic C. difficile directly from faeces compared to routine toxigenic culture. In total, 300 faecal samples from Danish hospitalised patients with diarrhoea were included consecutively. Culture was performed in duplicate (routine and ‘expanded toxigenic culture’: prolonged and/or re-culture) and genotypic toxin profiling by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), PCR ribotyping and toxinotyping (TT) were performed on culture-positive samples. In parallel, the samples were analysed by four NAATs; two targeting tcdA or tcdB (illumigene® C. difficile and PCRFast® C. difficile A/B) and two multi-target real-time (RT) PCR assays also targeting cdt and tcdC alleles characteristic of epidemic and potentially more virulent PCR ribotypes 027, 066 and 078 (GeneXpert® C. difficile/Epi and an ‘in-house RT PCR’ two-step algorithm). The multi-target assays were significantly more sensitive compared to routine toxigenic culture (p < 0.05) and significantly more robust to inhibition compared to PCRFast (p < 0.001). Duplicate ‘expanded toxigenic culture’ increased the culture-positive rate by 29 % compared to routine culture. The ability of the GeneXpert and in-house assays to correctly classify PCR ribotype 027 was high (>95 %), and in-house PCR displayed 100 % correct identification of PCR ribotypes 066 and 078. Furthermore, the presence of the PCR enhancer bovine serum albumin (BSA) was found to be related to high sensitivity and low inhibition rate. Rapid laboratory diagnosis of toxigenic C. difficile by RT PCR was accurate
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)727-736
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


    • Clostridium difficile

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