Direct detection of Legionella species from bronchoalveolar lavage and open lung biopsy specimens: Comparison of lightcycler PCR, in situ hybridization, direct fluorescence antigen detection, and culture

R. T. Hayden, J. R. Uhl, X. Qian, M. K. Hopkins, M. C. Aubry, A. H. Limper, R. V. Lloyd, F. R. Cockerill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations

Abstract

We developed a rapid thermocycling, real-time detection (also known as real-time PCR) method for the detection of Legionella species directly from clinical specimens. This method uses the LightCycler (Roche Molecular Biochemicals, Indianapolis, Ind.) and requires approximately 1 to 2 h to perform. Both a Legionella genus PCR assay and Legionella pneumophila species-specific PCR assay were designed. A total of 43 archived specimens from 35 patients were evaluated, including 19 bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) specimens and 24 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded open lung biopsy specimens. Twenty-five of the specimens were culture-positive for Legionella (9 BAL specimens and 16 tissue specimens). BAL specimens were tested by LightCycler PCR (LC-PCR) methods and by a direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) assay, which detects L. pneumophila serogroups 1 to 6 and several other Legionella species. Tissue sections were tested by the two LC-PCR methods, by DFA, by an in situ hybridization (ISH) assay, specifically designed to detect L. pneumophila, and by Warthin-Starry (WS) staining. The results were compared to the "gold standard" method of bacterial culture. With BAL specimens the following assays yielded the indicated sensitivities and specificities, respectively: Legionella genus detection by Legionella genus LC-PCR, 100 and 100%; Legionella genus detection by DFA assay, 33 and 100%; and L. pneumophila detection by L. pneumophila species-specific LC-PCR, 100 and 100%. With open lung biopsy specimens the following assays yielded the indicated sensitivities and specificities, respectively: Legionella genus detection by LC-PCR 68.8 and 100%; Legionella genus detection by DFA assay, 44 and 100%; Legionella genus detection by WS staining, 63 and 100%; L. pneumophila species-specific detection by LC-PCR, 17 and 100%; and L. pneumophila species-specific detection by ISH, 100 and 100%. The analytical sensitivity of both LC-PCR assays was < 10 CFU/reaction. LC-PCR is a reliable method for the direct detection of Legionella species from BAL specimens. The Legionella genus LC-PCR assay could be performed initially; if positive, L. pneumophila species-specific LC-PCR could then be performed (if species differentiation is desired). The speed with which the LC-PCR procedure can be performed offers significant advantages over both culture-based methods and conventional PCR techniques. In contrast, for the methods evaluated, culture was the best for detecting multiple Legionella species in lung tissue. WS staining, Legionella genus LC-PCR, and L. pneumophila species-specific ISH were useful as rapid tests with lung tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2618-2626
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Volume39
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)

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