Author(s): Saukkoriipi A
PCR based on the amplification of pneumolysin gene fragments has previously been applied to demonstrate Streptococcus pneumoniae in clinical specimens. Here, a real-time PCR method for the detection and quantification of pneumococci by amplifying a 206-bp fragment of the pneumolysin-encoding gene is described. The amplified fragments were detected simultaneously using fluorescent-labeled sequence-specific hybridization probes. The applicability of the assay to clinical samples was evaluated by studying 50 middle ear fluid (MEF) specimens from children with acute otitis media. Twenty-six of the MEF samples were positive by real-time PCR and the numbers of genome equivalents detected varied from 90 to 88,000/microl in 17 culture-positive samples and from 1 to 1,200/microl in 9 culture-negative samples. The results were compared to culture findings and to results obtained by using agarose gel electrophoresis or Europium-labeled hybridization probes for the detection of amplification products of conventional PCR. The sensitivity and specificity of the real-time PCR assay developed in the present study compared to culture were 100 and 73%, and to conventional PCR with agarose gel and/or TRF detection 93 and 96%, respectively. The real-time PCR assay was found to be rapid, easy to use, and sensitive in detecting and quantifying pneumococci.