Background: Typing of Neisseria gonorrhoeae is necessary for epidemiologic surveillance, while time consuming and resource intensive. Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy has shown promising results when typing several bacterial species. This study investigates whether FTIR spectroscopy can be used as a rapid method for typing clinical N. gonorrhoeae isolates, comparing FTIR spectroscopy to multi locus sequence typing (MLST), N. gonorrhoeae multi antigen sequence typing (NG-MAST) and whole genome sequencing (WGS).
Methods: Sixty consecutive isolates from a venereology clinic and three isolates from an outbreak were included. Isolates were analysed with FTIR spectroscopy on the IR Biotyper system (Bruker Daltonik) with the IR Biotyper software (version 2.1) with default analysis settings (spectral range 1300-800 cm-1). Four technical replicates of each isolate were analysed in three different runs. The output was a hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) presented as a dendrogram; a tree-like overview of how closely different isolates are related. FTIR spectroscopy was compared to MLST, NG-MAST and WGS to see if the FTIR spectroscopy-dendrogram grouped the isolates in the same clusters.
Results: Fifty-one out of 60 isolates, and the three outbreak isolates, produced at least one spectrum in each run and were included. No agreement between FTIR spectroscopy and MLST or NG-MAST or WGS was shown. The FTIR spectroscopy-dendrogram failed to cluster the outbreak isolates.
Conclusion: FTIR spectroscopy (spectral range 1300-800 cm-1) is not yet suitable for epidemiologic typing of N. gonorrhoeae. Absence of a capsule as well as phase- and antigenic variation of carbohydrate surface structures of the gonococcal cell wall may contribute to our findings. Future studies should include analysis of a wider range of the spectrum recorded (4000-500 cm-1), and should also explore further mathematical analytic approaches of the similarity between spectra.
Keywords: Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy; Neisseria gonorrhoeae; molecular typing.
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