Background: Kingella kingae is an emerging pathogen that may be recognized as the most common bacteria responsible for osteoarticular infections (OAI) in young children. However, its diagnosis remains a challenge and thus little evoked in infants, because K. kingae is a difficult germ to isolate on solid medium, and clinical signs are often mild. The main objective of this prospective study is to describe the clinical, biologic, and radiologic features of children with OAI caused by K. kingae. In addition, we describe the usage of a new specific real-time PCR assay in children under 4 years admitted for OAI with a probe that detects 2 independent gene targets from the K. kingae RTX toxin.
Patients and methods: All children less than 4 years admitted in our institution between January 2007 and November 2009 for suspected OAI were enrolled in this prospective study (43 cases). Age, gender, clinical signs, duration of symptoms, bone or joint involved, imaging studies, and laboratory data, including bacterial investigations, full blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and serum C-reactive protein were collected for analysis.
Results: Identification of the microorganism was possible for 28 cases (65.1%) yielding K. kingae in 23 cases (82.1%). Mean age of children with K. kingae OAI was 19.6 months. Less than 15% of these patients were febrile during the admission, but 46% of them presented a history of fever-peak superior to 38.5 degrees C before admission. Thirty-nine percent of the children with K. kingae OAI had normal C-reactive protein; WBC was elevated in only 2 cases, whereas 21 patients had abnormal erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and 13 abnormal platelet counts. Direct Gram staining and classical isolation methods were negative for all cases subsequently detected as K. kingae OAI by specific real-time PCR.
Conclusion: This study confirms that K. kingae is the major bacterial cause of OAI in children less than 4 years. The real-time PCR assay, specific to the K. kingae RTX toxin, provides interesting diagnostic performance when implemented in the routine microbiologic laboratory. Needless to say, a bigger cohort is required to adequately study this new qPCR assay, but the results so far seem promising. The most important additional finding is the mild-to-moderate clinical, radiologic, and biologic inflammatory response to K. kingae infection with the result that these children present few criteria evocative of OAI.
Level of evidence: II.