Direct-from-blood RNA sequencing identifies the cause of post-bronchoscopy fever

BMC Infect Dis. 2019 Oct 28;19(1):905. doi: 10.1186/s12879-019-4462-9.


Background: Antibiotic resistance is rising at disturbing rates and contributes to the deaths of millions of people yearly. Antibiotic resistant infections disproportionately affect those with immunocompromising conditions, chronic colonization, and frequent antibiotic use such as transplant patients or those with cystic fibrosis. However, clinicians lack the diagnostic tools to confidently diagnose and treat infections, leading to widespread use of empiric broad spectrum antimicrobials, often for prolonged duration.

Case presentation: A 22 year-old Caucasian female with cystic fibrosis received a bilateral orthotopic lung transplantation 5 months prior to the index hospitalization. She underwent routine surveillance bronchoscopy and was admitted for post-procedure fever. A clear cause of infection was not identified by routine methods. Imaging and bronchoscopic lung biopsy did not identify an infectious agent or rejection. She was treated with a prolonged course of antimicrobials targeting known colonizing organisms from prior bronchoalveolar lavage cultures (Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus aureus, and Aspergillus). However, we identified Stenotrophomonas maltophilia in two independent whole blood samples using direct-pathogen sequencing, which was not identified by other methods.

Conclusions: This case represents a common clinical conundrum: identification of infection in a high-risk, complex patient. Here, direct-pathogen sequencing identified a pathogen that would not otherwise have been identified by common techniques. Had results been clinically available, treatment could have been customized, avoiding a prolonged course of broad spectrum antimicrobials that would only exacerbate resistance. Direct-pathogen sequencing is poised to fill a diagnostic gap for pathogen identification, allowing early identification and customization of treatment in a culture-independent, pathogen-agnostic manner.

Keywords: Bacterial infections; Early diagnosis; Metagenomic sequencing; Molecular diagnostics; Stenotrophomonas maltophilia; Transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage
  • Bronchoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Cystic Fibrosis / surgery
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Female
  • Fever / drug therapy
  • Fever / etiology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / diagnosis*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / etiology*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing*
  • Humans
  • Lung Transplantation
  • Pseudomonas / isolation & purification
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Stenotrophomonas maltophilia / genetics*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents