Detection of Chlamydia trachomatis mRNA using digital PCR as a more accurate marker of viable organism

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 2018, 37 (11), pp. 2117 - 2122
Issue Date:
2018-11-01
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© 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Spontaneous resolution of urogenital Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) without treatment has previously been described, but a limitation of these reports is that DNA or RNA-based amplification tests used do not differentiate between viable infection and non-viable DNA. We modified a previously published CT mRNA detection (omp2) method to differentiate between viable infection and non-viable DNA in a sample of CT DNA PCR positive women. We modified a CT mRNA detection (omp2) method from reverse transcriptase qPCR (RTqPCR) to digital PCR (dPCR) and evaluated it in samples from CT DNA positive women. Firstly, CT infected McCoy B cells treated with azithromycin in vitro identified detectable mRNA levels disappeared <2 days, while DNA persisted up to 6 days. We used 55 self-collected vaginal swabs from a cohort of women diagnosed as DNA positive for chlamydia obtained pre- and 7 days of post-azithromycin treatment. Concordance with DNA results was higher for dPCR than RTqPCR (74.5% versus 65.5%). At visit 1, there was a strong linear relationship between DNA and mRNA (r = 0.9, p < 0.000); 24 samples had both mRNA and DNA detected (82.8%) and 5 had only DNA detected with a potential false positive proportion of 17.2% (95%CI: 5.8, 35.8). At visit 2, there was poor correlation between DNA and mRNA (r = 0.14, p = 0.55); eight specimens had only DNA detected (42.1%; 95%CI: 20.25, 66.50) and one had mRNA detected. DNA detection methods alone may detect non-viable DNA. Consideration should be given to further develop mRNA assays as ancillary tests to improve detection of viable chlamydia.
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