Development of a multiplexed microsphere PCR for culture-free detection and gram-typing of bacteria in human blood samples

Fang Liang, Daniel J. Browne, Megan J. Gray, Kate H. Gartlan, David D. Smith, Ross T. Barnard, Geoffrey R. Hill, Simon R. Corrie, Kate A. Markey

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Bloodstream infection is a significant clinical problem, particularly in vulnerable patient groups such as those undergoing chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation. Clinical diagnostics for suspected bloodstream infection remain centered around blood culture (highly variable timing, in the order of hours to days to become positive), and empiric use of broad-spectrum antibiotics is therefore employed for patients presenting with febrile neutropenia. Gram-typing provides the first opportunity to target therapy (e.g., combinations containing vancomycin or teicoplanin for Gram-positives; piperacillin-tazobactam or a carbapenem for Gram-negatives); however, current approaches require blood culture. In this study, we describe a multiplexed microsphere-PCR assay with flow cytometry readout, which can distinguish Gram-positive from Gram-negative bacterial DNA in a 3.5 h time period. The combination of a simple assay design (amplicon-dependent release of Gram-type specific Cy3-labeled oligonucleotides) and the Luminex-based readout (for quantifying each specific Cy3-labeled sequence) opens opportunities for further multiplexing. We demonstrate the feasibility of detecting common Gram-positive and Gram-negative organisms after spiking whole bacteria into healthy human blood prior to DNA extraction. Further development of DNA extraction methods is required to reach detection limits comparable to blood culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-844
Number of pages8
JournalACS Infectious Diseases
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2018


  • bacteria
  • bloodstream infection
  • Gram-negative
  • Gram-positive
  • Luminex
  • multiplex
  • PCR

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