Introduction and Aims The identification of complex chronic polymicrobial infections, such as those observed in the cystic fibrosis (CF) airways, are often a diagnostic challenge. Few studies have compared culture-dependent methods with molecular identification making it hard to describe bacterial communities in a comprehensive manner. The aim of the study is to compare four different methods with respect to their similarities and differences in detection of bacteria.
Methods We compared41 sputum samples fromroutine clinical-culture, extended-culture (aerobic and anaerobic), and molecular identification such as Roche 454-FLX Titanium and T-RFLP to assess concurrence between methodologies in detecting bacteria. The agreement between methodologies in detecting either absence or presence of bacterial taxa was assessed by Kappa (κ) statistics.
Results The majority of bacterial taxa identified by culture were also identified with molecular analysis. In total 2, 60, 25, and 179 different bacterial taxa were identified with clinical-culture, extended-culture, T-RFLP and 454-FLX respectively. Clinical-culture, extended-culture and T-RFLP were poor predictors of species richness when compared to 454-FLX (p < 0.0001). Agreement between methods for detecting Pseudomonas sp. and Burkholderia sp. was good with κ ≥ 0.7 [p < 0.0001] and κ ≥ 0.9 [p < 0.0001] respectively. Detection of anaerobic bacteria, such as Prevotella sp. and Veillonella sp., was moderate between extended-culture and 454-FLX with κ = 0.461 [p < 0.0001] and κ = 0.311 [p = 0.032] respectively, and good between T-RFLP and 454-FLX with κ = 0.577 [p < 0.0001] and κ = 0.808 [p < 0.0001] respectively. Agreement between methods for other main bacterial taxa, such as Staphylcoccus sp. and Streptococcus sp., was poor with only a moderate agreement for detection of Streptococcus sp. observed between T-RFLP and 454-FLX (κ = 0.221 [p = 0.024]).
Conclusions This study demonstrates the increased sensitivity culture-independent microbial identification such as the 454-FLX have over clinical-culture, extended-culture and T-RFLP methodologies. The extended-culture detected majority of the most prevalent bacterial taxa associated with chronic colonisation of the CF airways which were also detected by culture-independent methodologies. However, agreement between methods in detecting number of potentially relevant bacteria is largely lacking.
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