Nanolitre real-time PCR detection of bacterial, parasitic, and viral agents from patients with diarrhoea in Nunavut, Canada
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BACKGROUND: Little is known about the microbiology of diarrhoeal disease in Canada's Arctic regions. There are a number of limitations of conventional microbiology testing techniques for diarrhoeal pathogens, and these may be further compromised in the Arctic, given the often long distances for specimen transport. OBJECTIVE: To develop a novel multiple-target nanolitre real-time reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR platform to simultaneously test diarrhoeal specimens collected from residents of the Qikiqtani (Baffin Island) Region of Nunavut, Canada, for a wide range of bacterial, parasitic and viral agents. STUDY DESIGN/METHODS: Diarrhoeal stool samples submitted for bacterial culture to Qikiqtani General Hospital in Nunavut over an 18-month period were tested with a multiple-target nanolitre real-time PCR panel for major diarrhoeal pathogens including 8 bacterial, 6 viral and 2 parasitic targets. RESULTS: Among 86 stool specimens tested by PCR, a total of 50 pathogens were detected with 1 or more pathogens found in 40 (46.5%) stool specimens. The organisms detected comprised 17 Cryptosporidium spp., 5 Clostridium difficile with toxin B, 6 Campylobacter spp., 6 Salmonella spp., 4 astroviruses, 3 noroviruses, 1 rotavirus, 1 Shigella spp. and 1 Giardia spp. The frequency of detection by PCR and bacterial culture was similar for Salmonella spp., but discrepant for Campylobacter spp., as Campylobacter was detected by culture from only 1/86 specimens. Similarly, Cryptosporidium spp. was detected in multiple samples by PCR but was not detected by microscopy or enzyme immunoassay. CONCLUSIONS: Cryptosporidium spp., Campylobacter spp. and Clostridium difficile may be relatively common but possibly under-recognised pathogens in this region. Further study is needed to determine the regional epidemiology and clinical significance of these organisms. This method appears to be a useful tool for gastrointestinal pathogen research and may also be helpful for clinical diagnostics and outbreak investigation in remote regions where the yield of routine testing may be compromised.
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