The effects of culture independent diagnostic testing on the diagnosis and reporting of enteric bacterial pathogens in Queensland, 2010 to 2014




May, Fiona
Stafford, Russell
Carroll, Heidi
Robson, Jenny
Vohra, Renu
Nimmo, Graeme R
Bates, John
Kirk, Martyn
Fearnley, Emily
Polkinghorne, Ben

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Australian Government. Department of Health and Ageing. Office of Health Protection, Surveillance Branch


Changes in diagnostic laboratory testing procedures can impact on the number of cases notified and the public health surveillance of enteric pathogens. Culture independent diagnostic testing using a multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was introduced for the rapid detection of bacterial enteric pathogens in pathology laboratories in Queensland, Australia, from late 2013 onwards. We conducted a retrospective descriptive study using laboratory data to assess the impact of the introduction of PCR testing on four common enteric pathogens, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella and Yersinia, in Queensland between 2010 and 2014. The number of stool specimens tested and the proportion positive for each of the four pathogens increased in 2014 after the introduction of culture independent diagnostic testing. Among the specimens tested by both PCR and culture, 12% of Salmonella positive stools, 36% of Campylobacter positive stools, 74% of Shigella / enteroinvasive Escherichia coli positive stools and 65% of Yersinia positive stools were PCR positive only. Including those where culture was not performed, 19% of Salmonella positive stools, 44% of Campylobacter positive stools, 83% of Shigella positive stools and 79% of Yersinia positive stools had no cultured isolate available for further characterisation. The detection and tracking of foodborne and non-foodborne gastrointestinal outbreaks will become more difficult as culture independent diagnostic testing becomes more widespread. Until new techniques for characterisation of pathogens directly from clinical specimens have been developed, we recommend laboratories continue to culture specimens concurrently or reflexively with culture independent diagnostic tests.





Communicable Diseases Intelligence Quarterly Report


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