Comparison of one commercial and two in-house TaqMan multiplex real-time PCR assays for detection of enteropathogenic, enterotoxigenic and enteroaggregative Escherichia coli

Trop Med Int Health. 2017 Nov;22(11):1371-1376. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12976. Epub 2017 Sep 28.


Objective: Enteropathogenic, enterotoxigenic and enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EPEC, ETEC, EAEC) are among the most frequent causes of diarrhoea during travel or on military deployments. Cost-efficient and reliable real-time multiplex PCR (mPCR) assays are desirable for surveillance or point prevalence studies in remote and resource-limited tropical settings. We compared one commercial PCR kit and two in-house assays without using a gold standard to estimate sensitivity and specificity of each assay.

Methods: Residual materials from nucleic acid extractions of stool samples from two groups with presumably different prevalences and increased likelihood of being infected or colonised by diarrhoeagenic E. coli were included in the assessment. One group comprised samples from returnees from tropical deployments, the second group was of migrants and study participants from high-endemicity settings. Each sample was assessed with all of the PCR assays. Cycle threshold (Ct) values were descriptively compared.

Results: The calculated sensitivities for the commercial test vs. the in-house tests were for EPEC 0.84 vs. 0.89 and 0.96, for ETEC 0.83 vs. 0.76 and 0.61, and for EAEC 0.69 vs. 0.54 and 0.69. False positive results were rare - specificity was 0.94 and 0.97 for two EPEC tests and 1.0 for all other tests. Most positive samples had late Ct values corresponding to low quantities of pathogens. Discordant test results were associated with late Ct values.

Conclusions: As commercial and in-house assays showed comparable results, in-house tests can be assumed to be safe while affording considerable savings, making them a valuable alternative for surveillance testing in resource-limited tropical areas.

Keywords: PCR; PCR; comparaison de tests; diarrhoeagenic Escherichia coli; diarrhéique Escherichia coli; enteroaggregative; enteropathogenic; enterotoxigenic; entéroaggrégatif; entéropathogène; entérotoxigène; test comparison.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Commerce
  • Diarrhea / microbiology*
  • Endemic Diseases
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Health Resources
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Transients and Migrants
  • Travel
  • Tropical Climate