Usefulness of a rapid real-time PCR assay in prenatal screening for group B streptococcus colonization

Ann Lab Med. 2013 Jan;33(1):39-44. doi: 10.3343/alm.2013.33.1.39. Epub 2012 Dec 17.


Background: Group B streptococcus (GBS) infection is a leading cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. Here, we present the analytical and diagnostic usefulness of a new real-time PCR-based assay (Xpert GBS; Cepheid, USA) for rapid and accurate prenatal GBS screening.

Methods: We enrolled 175 pregnant women who were between 35 and 39 weeks of gestation. The analytical performance of the Xpert GBS assay was first tested using a reference GBS strain. Next, to test diagnostic performance, rectovaginal swabs were obtained from pregnant women who visited the hospital for regular antenatal screening after 34 weeks of gestation. The results of the Xpert GBS assay were compared to those of standard culture for the detection of prenatal GBS colonization.

Results: When any positive result from Xpert GBS or culture was considered a true positive, the sensitivity of the Xpert GBS assay and culture were 91% (20/22; 95% CI [confidence interval], 72-98) and 68% (15/22; 95% CI, 47-84), respectively. The specificity of both methods was 100% (153/153; 95% CI, 97-100). The sensitivity and specificity of the Xpert GBS assay, using the culture results as a reference, were 86.7% and 95.6%, respectively. In the Xpert GBS assay, the median threshold cycle of vaginally colonized samples was significantly lower than rectally colonized samples (P<0.01).

Conclusions: The Xpert GBS assay is an accurate, rapid, easy-to-use test for the detection of maternal GBS colonization in prenatal screening that might be especially useful in clinical settings where standard culture is not feasible.

Keywords: Prenatal diagnosis; Real-time PCR; Streptococcus agalactiae.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / microbiology
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rectum / microbiology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Streptococcal Infections / diagnosis*
  • Streptococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / genetics*
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / isolation & purification
  • Vagina / microbiology


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic