16S rRNA gene sequencing is a non-culture method of defining the specific bacterial etiology of ventilator-associated pneumonia

Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015 Oct 15;8(10):18560-70. eCollection 2015.


Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is an acquired respiratory tract infection following tracheal intubation. The most common hospital-acquired infection among patients with acute respiratory failure, VAP is associated with a mortality rate of 20-30%. The standard bacterial culture method for identifying the etiology of VAP is not specific, timely, or accurate in identifying the bacterial pathogens. This study used 16S rRNA gene metagenomic sequencing to identify and quantify the pathogenic bacteria in lower respiratory tract and oropharyngeal samples of 55 VAP patients. Sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene has served as a valuable tool in bacterial identification, particularly when other biochemical, molecular, or phenotypic identification techniques fail. In this study, 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed in parallel with the standard bacterial culture method to identify and quantify bacteria present in the collected patient samples. Sequence analysis showed the colonization of multidrug-resistant strains in VAP secretions. Further, this method identified Prevotella, Proteus, Aquabacter, and Sphingomonas bacterial genera that were not detected by the standard bacterial culture method. Seven categories of bacteria, Streptococcus, Neisseria, Corynebacterium, Acinetobacter, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas and Klebsiella, were detectable by both 16S rRNA gene sequencing and standard bacterial culture methods. Further, 16S rRNA gene sequencing had a significantly higher sensitivity in detecting Streptococcus and Pseudomonas when compared to standard bacterial culture. Together, these data present 16S rRNA gene sequencing as a novel VAP diagnosis tool that will further enable pathogen-specific treatment of VAP.

Keywords: 16S rDNA; 16S rRNA gene sequencing; Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP); lower respiratory tract; oropharynx.