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  • Author or Editor: Hagen Frickmann x
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Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) poses an infection risk for international military deployments. In the presented mini-review, the history of MRSA in the medical service and modern warfare is highlighted. To allow rapid diagnosis, various molecular diagnostic point-of-care solutions are available. Most evaluation studies, however, are focused on screening swabs rather than clinical materials and evaluation data from harsh environments are widely lacking. Accordingly, studies with complex sample materials under difficult environmental conditions, e.g., in the desert or in the tropics, are desirable to close this gap of knowledge regarding the diagnostic reliability of such modern molecular point-of-care devices.

Open access

ESBL (extended-spectrum-β-lactamase)-positive Enterobacteriaceae, which colonized European soldiers in tropical Western African Mali, were subjected to a molecular assessment of their resistance determinants. By doing so, a better insight into the locally endemic pattern of ESBL-associated β-lactamase genes was aspired.

From a previous study on diarrhea in European soldiers on deployment in tropical Mali, 15 ESBL-positive Escherichia coli with demonstrated high clonal diversity and one positive Klebsiella pneumoniae were assessed. Polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) for bla TEM and bla SHV β-lactamase genes with subsequent sequencing for the discrimination of ESBL- and non-ESBL variants were performed, followed by four group-specific PCRs for bla CTX-M genes.

Non-ESBL-associated bla TEM-1 was identified in six out of 15 (40%) E. coli strains, while 100% of the assessed strains were positive for group I bla CTX-M.

Considering the known clonal diversity of the assessed strains, the striking restriction to one group of bla CTX-M genes accounting for the ESBL phenotypes of the isolates suggests little genetic exchange in the local setting. Under such circumstances of restricted numbers of locally endemic target genes, PCR-based screening approaches for ESBL colonization might be promising.

Open access


A reliable and complete inactivation is an indispensable premise for any concentration of rickettsiae or for the development of diagnostic strategies based on their antigens. This study deals with the testing of methods to inactivate rickettsiae.

Rickettsia honei was used as a model organism. The inactivating potency of formalin, Qiagen® antiviral lysozyme (AVL) buffer, heating to 56 °C, and β-propiolactone was analyzed in cell culture.

The inactivation limits for rickettsiae were 0.1% formalin about 10 min, Qiagen AVL buffer about 5 min, 56 °C about 5 min, 0.125% β-propiolactone about 1 h, and 0.0125% β-propiolactone overnight. The interpretation was limited by cytotoxic effects of the inactivation procedures and by the culturally achievable rickettsial density in the cell culture supernatants that were used for the inactivation experiments.

Reliable modes of inactivation were identified, allowing for the secure handling of rickettsial antigens for diagnostic purposes.

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Rickettsiae tend to have a rapid decrease of viability outside living cells. Therefore, the transport of samples containing viable rickettsiae for culturing in cell culture for diagnostic purposes is challenging.

The viability of rickettsiae in different transport media (commercially available transport medium COPAN “UTM-RT transport medium for viruses, chlamydia, mycoplasma, and ureaplasma,” minimal essential medium (MEM) with and without 10% foetal calf serum) at various time points at 4 °C and at ambient temperature (22 °C) was compared. Rickettsia honei was used as model organism.

After 2 weeks of storage at room temperature, no viable rickettsiae were detectable any more while storage at 4 °C kept rickettsiae viable for up to 4 weeks. The commercially available COPAN medium showed similarly good or slightly better stabilizing effects on rickettsiae compared with MEM + 10% foetal calf serum, pure MEM demonstrated the poorest results.

It is important to transport and store media with potentially rickettsiae-containing samples at 4 °C to prevent inactivation. MEM + 10% foetal calf serum can be used if no commercial medium is available with similarly good results.

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Here, we assessed the extraction efficiency of a deployable bench-top nucleic acid extractor EZ1 in comparison to the column-based approach with complex sample matrices.A total of 48 EDTA blood samples and 81 stool samples were extracted by EZ1 automated extraction and the column-based QIAamp DNA Mini Kit. Blood sample extractions were assessed by two real-time malaria PCRs, while stool samples were analyzed by six multiplex real-time PCR assays targeting bacterial, viral, and parasitic stool pathogens. Inhibition control PCR testing was performed as well.In total, 147 concordant and 13 discordant pathogen-specific PCR results were obtained. The latter comprised 11 positive results after column-based extraction only and two positive results after EZ1 extraction only. EZ1 extraction showed a higher frequency of inhibition. This phenomenon was, however, inconsistent for the different PCR schemes. In case of concordant PCR results, relevant differences of cycle threshold numbers for the compared extraction schemes were not observed.Switches from well-established column-based extraction to extraction with the automated EZ1 system do not lead to a relevantly reduced yield of target DNA when complex sample matrices are used. If sample inhibition is observed, column-based extraction from another sample aliquot may be considered.

Open access



The aim of the study was a comparative evaluation of in-house real-time PCR and commercial real-time PCR (Fast Track Diagnostics (FTD), ampliCube/Mikrogen) targeting enteropathogenic bacteria from stool in preparation of Regulation (EU) 2017/746 on in vitro diagnostic medical devices.


Both 241 stool samples from patients and 100 samples from German laboratory control schemes (“Ringversuche”) were used to comparatively assess in-house real-time PCR, the FTD bacterial gastroenteritis kit, and the ampliCube gastrointestinal bacterial panels 1&2 either with the in-house PCRs as gold standard and as a test comparison without gold standard applying latent class analysis. Sensitivity, specificity, intra- and inter-assay variation and Cohen’s kappa were assessed.


In comparison with the gold standard, sensitivity was 75–100% for strongly positive samples, 20–100% for weakly positive samples, and specificity ranged from 96 to 100%. Latent class analysis suggested that sensitivity ranges from 81.2 to 100% and specificity from 58.5 to 100%. Cohen’s kappa varied between moderate and nearly perfect agreement, intra- and inter-assay variation was 1–3 to 1–4 Ct values.


Acceptable agreement and performance characteristics suggested replaceability of the in-house PCR assays by the commercial approaches.

Open access

We compared the performance of an in-house and a commercial malaria polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay using freeze–thawed hemolytic blood samples.

A total of 116 freeze–thawed ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) blood samples of patients with suspicion of malaria were analyzed by an in-house as well as by a commercially available real-time PCR.

Concordant malaria negative PCR results were reported for 39 samples and malaria-positive PCR results for 67 samples. The inhouse assay further detected one case of Plasmodium falciparum infection, which was negative in the commercial assay as well as five cases of P. falciparum malaria and three cases of Plasmodium vivax malaria, which showed sample inhibition in the commercial assay. The commercial malaria assay was positive in spite of a negative in-house PCR result in one case. In all concordant results, cycle threshold values of P. falciparum-positive samples were lower in the commercial PCR than in the in-house assay.

Although Ct values of the commercial PCR kit suggest higher sensitivity in case of concordant results, it is prone to inhibition if it is applied to hemolytic freeze–thawed blood samples. The number of misidentifications was, however, identical for both real-time PCR assays.

Open access

Haemophilus influenzae is a key pathogen of upper respiratory tract infections. Its reliable discrimination from nonpathogenic Haemophilus spp. is necessary because merely colonizing bacteria are frequent at primarily unsterile sites. Due to close phylogenetic relationship, it is not easy to discriminate H. influenzae from the colonizer Haemophilus haemolyticus. The frequency of H. haemolyticus isolations depends on factors like sampling site, patient condition, and geographic region.Biochemical discrimination has been shown to be nonreliable. Multiplex PCR including marker genes like sodC, fucK, and hpd or sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, the P6 gene, or multilocus-sequence-typing is more promising. For the diagnostic routine, such techniques are too expensive and laborious. If available, matrix-assisted laser-desorption-ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry is a routine-compatible option and should be used in the first line. However, the used database should contain well-defined reference spectra, and the spectral difference between H. influenzae and H. haemolyticus is small. Fluorescence in-situ hybridization is an option for less well-equipped laboratories, but the available protocol will not lead to conclusive results in all instances. It can be used as a second line approach. Occasional ambiguous results have to be resolved by alternative molecular methods like 16S rRNA gene sequencing.

Open access

The extraction and further processing of nucleic acids (NA) from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues for microbiological diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) approaches is challenging. Here, we assessed the effects of five different commercially available nucleic acid extraction kits on the results of real-time PCR.

FFPE samples from organs of Burkholderia pseudomallei-infected Swiss mice were subjected to processing with five different extraction kits from QIAGEN (FFPE DNA Tissue Kit, EZ1 DNA Tissue Kit, DNA Mini Kit, DNA Blood Mini Kit, and FlexiGene DNA Kit) in combination with three different real-time PCRs targeting B. pseudomallei-specific sequences of varying length after 16 years of storage.

The EZ1 DNA Tissue Kit and the DNA Mini Kit scored best regarding the numbers of successful PCR reactions. In case of positive PCR, differences regarding the cycle-threshold (Ct) values were marginal.

The impact of the applied extraction kits on the reliability of PCR from FFPE material seems to be low. Interfering factors like the quality of the dewaxing procedure or the sample age appear more important than the selection of specialized FFPE kits.

Open access

This study assessed the variation of phenotypic features of clinical isolates of Burkholderia spp. from common rpsU gene sequence clusters.

A total of 41 clinical Burkholderia spp. isolates from German mucoviscidosis patients was subjected to rpsU gene sequencing. Biochemical assessment included the API systems 20 NE and 50 CHE as well as the Micronaut NF system. Fatty acid patterns were assessed using gas chromatography—mass spectrometry (GC—MS). Broth microdilution was used to identify minimum inhibitory concentrations.

Five rpsU gene sequence clusters comprised more than one clinical isolate. Altogether, assignments to three species and seven clusters comprising more than one Burkholderia species were performed. Inhomogeneity of biochemical reactions within the clusters ranged from 0/28 to 45/50 reactions. The standard deviation for fatty acid distributions ranged from 0% to 11.5%. Minimum inhibitory concentrations within the clusters showed a wide variation but only minor differences between the clusters.

Broad variations within identified rpsU gene sequence clusters regarding biochemical reactions, fatty acid patterns, and resistance patterns of clinical Burkholderia spp. isolates make the application of rpsU gene sequence analysis as a stand-alone procedure for discriminations within the Burkholderia cepacia complex unreliable.

Open access