Assessing the diagnostic accuracy of PCR-based detection of Streptococcus pneumoniae from nasopharyngeal swabs collected for viral studies in Canadian adults hospitalised with community-acquired pneumonia: a Serious Outcomes Surveillance (SOS) Network of the Canadian Immunization Research (CIRN) study Journal Articles uri icon

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  • STUDY DESIGN: Detection and serotyping of Streptococcus pneumoniae are important to assess the impact of pneumococcal vaccines. This study describes the diagnostic accuracy of PCR-based detection of S. pneumoniae directly from nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs collected for respiratory virus studies. METHODS: Active surveillance for community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in hospitalised adults was performed from December 2010 to 2013. Detection of pneumococcal CAP (CAPSpn) was performed by urine antigen detection (UAD), identification of S. pneumoniae in sputum or blood cultures. S. pneumoniae was detected in NP swabs using lytA and cpsA real-time PCR, and serotyping was performed using conventional and real-time multiplex PCRs. For serotyping, the Quellung reaction, PCR-based serotyping or a serotype-specific UAD was used. RESULTS: NP swab results were compared against CAP cases where all pneumococcal tests were performed (n=434), or where at least one test was performed (n=1616). CAPSpn was identified in 22.1% (96/434) and 14.9% (240/1616), respectively. The sensitivity of NP swab PCR for the detection of S. pneumoniae was poor for CAPSpn (35.4% (34/96) and 34.17% (82/240)), but high specificity was observed (99.4% (336/338) and 97.89% (1347/1376)). Of the positive NP swabs, a serotype could be deduced by PCR in 88.2% (30/34) and 93.9% (77/82), respectively. CONCLUSIONS: While further optimisation may be needed to increase the sensitivity of PCR-based detection, its high specificity suggests there is a value for pneumococcal surveillance. With many laboratories archiving specimens for influenza virus surveillance, this specimen type could provide a non-culture-based method for pneumococcal surveillance.


  • Loeb, Mark
  • Gillis, Hayley D
  • Lang, Amanda LS
  • ElSherif, May
  • Martin, Irene
  • Hatchette, Todd F
  • McNeil, Shelly A
  • LeBlanc, Jason J

publication date

  • June 2017