Improvement in laboratory diagnosis of wound botulism and tetanus among injecting illicit-drug users by use of real-time PCR assays for neurotoxin gene fragments

D. Akbulut, K. A. Grant*, James McLauchlin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

An upsurge in wound infections due to Clostridium botulinum and Clostridium tetani among users of illegal injected drugs (IDUs) occurred in the United Kingdom during 2003 and 2004. A real-time PCR assay was developed to detect a fragment of the neurotoxin gene of C. tetani (TeNT) and was used in conjunction with previously described assays for C. botulinum neurotoxin types A, B, and E (BoNTA, -B, and -E). The assays were sensitive, specific, rapid to perform, and applicable to investigating infections among IDUs using DNA extracted directly from wound tissue, as well as bacteria growing among mixed microflora in enrichment cultures and in pure culture on solid media. A combination of bioassay and PCR test results confirmed the clinical diagnosis in 10 of 25 cases of suspected botulism and two of five suspected cases of tetanus among IDUs. The PCR assays were in almost complete agreement with the conventional bioassays when considering results from different samples collected from the same patient. The replacement of bioassays by real-time PCR for the isolation and identification of both C. botulinum and C. tetani demonstrates a sensitivity and specificity similar to those of conventional approaches. However, the real-time PCR assays substantially improves the diagnostic process in terms of the speed of results and by the replacement of experimental animals. Recommendations are given for an improved strategy for the laboratory investigation of suspected wound botulism and tetanus among IDUs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4342-4348
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Volume43
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2005

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