An inter-laboratory validation of a real time PCR assay to measure host excretion of bacterial pathogens, particularly of Mycobacterium bovis
Public Library of Science
Copyright: © 2011 Travis et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Advances in the diagnosis of Mycobacterium bovis infection in wildlife hosts may benefit the development of sustainable approaches to the management of bovine tuberculosis in cattle. In the present study, three laboratories from two different countries participated in a validation trial to evaluate the reliability and reproducibility of a real time PCR assay in the detection and quantification of M. bovis from environmental samples. The sample panels consisted of negative badger faeces spiked with a dilution series of M. bovis BCG Pasteur and of field samples of faeces from badgers of unknown infection status taken from badger latrines in areas with high and low incidence of bovine TB (bTB) in cattle. Samples were tested with a previously optimised methodology. The experimental design involved rigorous testing which highlighted a number of potential pitfalls in the analysis of environmental samples using real time PCR. Despite minor variation between operators and laboratories, the validation study demonstrated good concordance between the three laboratories: on the spiked panels, the test showed high levels of agreement in terms of positive/negative detection, with high specificity (100%) and high sensitivity (97%) at levels of 10(5) cells g(-1) and above. Quantitative analysis of the data revealed low variability in recovery of BCG cells between laboratories and operators. On the field samples, the test showed high reproducibility both in terms of positive/negative detection and in the number of cells detected, despite low numbers of samples identified as positive by any laboratory. Use of a parallel PCR inhibition control assay revealed negligible PCR-interfering chemicals co-extracted with the DNA. This is the first example of a multi-laboratory validation of a real time PCR assay for the detection of mycobacteria in environmental samples. Field studies are now required to determine how best to apply the assay for population-level bTB surveillance in wildlife.
This work was supported by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council BBSRCBB/E020925/1 grant to OC and EMHW, and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA SE3231 grant to EMHW, OC and RGH. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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Vol. 6, article e27369
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