Rapid diagnosis of Propionibacterium acnes infection in patient with hyperpyrexia after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation by next-generation sequencing: a case report

BMC Infect Dis. 2016 Jan 8;16:5. doi: 10.1186/s12879-015-1306-0.


Background: The rapid determination of pathogenic agent is very important to clinician for guiding their clinical medication. However, current diagnostic methods are of limitation in many aspects, such as detecting range, time-consuming, specificity and sensitivity. In this report, we apply our new-developing pathogen detection method to clarify that Propionibacterium acnes is the causative agent of a two-year-old boy with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia presenting clinical symptoms including serious rash and hyperpyrexia while traditional clinical methods of diagnosis fail to detect the pathogenic agent and multiple antimicrobial drugs are almost ineffective Propionibacterium acnes is confirmed to be the infectious agent by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction.

Case presentation: After haploidentical hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, a two-year-old boy with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia presented to a pediatrist in a medical facility with hyperpyrexia and red skin rash which later changed to black skin rash all over his body. Traditional diagnostic assays were unrevealing, and several routine antimicrobial treatments were ineffective, including the vancomycin, meropenem, tobramycin, cefepime and rifampin. In this case, pediatrist resorted to the next-generation sequencing technology for uncovering potential pathogens so as to direct their use of specific drugs against pathogenic bacteria. Therefore, based on the BGISEQ100 (Ion Proton System) which performed sequencing-by-synthesis, with electrochemical detection of synthesis, and each such reaction coupled to its own sensor, which are in turn organized into a massively parallel sensor array on a complementary metal-oxidesemiconductor chip, we detect and identify the potential pathogens. As a result, we detected a significantly higher abundance of skin bacteria Propionibacterium acnes in patient's blood than controls. It had been reported that patients infected by Propionibacterium acnes almost always had history of immunodeficiency, trauma or surgery. Considering this possible cause, antimicrobial treatment was adjusted to target this rare opportunistic pathogen. Fever and black skin rashes were rapidly reduced after administrating specific drugs against Propionibacterium acnes.

Conclusion: This case showed our new-developing pathogen detection method was a powerful tool in assisting clinical diagnosis and treatment. And it should be paid more attention to Propionibacterium acnes infection in clinical cases.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Fever
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / diagnosis*
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis*
  • Postoperative Complications / microbiology
  • Propionibacterium acnes*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rifampin
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Rifampin