Rapid detection of the staphylococcal mecA gene from BACTEC blood culture bottles by the polymerase chain reaction

Am J Clin Pathol. 1996 Nov;106(5):600-5. doi: 10.1093/ajcp/106.5.600.


A rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method for the direct detection of the staphylococcal mecA gene from BACTEC blood culture bottles (Becton Dickinson, Sparks, MD) was developed. Published primer sequences and sample preparation using Achromopeptidase for cell lysis were adapted to the use of the Idaho Technology Air Thermocycler 1605 (Idaho Technologies, Idaho Falls, ID). The method was validated with 80 strains of coagulase-positive and coagulase-negative geographically diverse methicillin-resistant and susceptible isolates of staphylococci. There was a 100% correlation between the PCR results and the results of standard susceptibility testing methods. From BACTEC 9240 blood cultures, mixed aliquots of blood and broth containing gram-positive cocci in clusters were centrifuged at low speed to sediment red blood cells. After additional centrifugation and wash steps, PCR was performed on the resuspended pellet. The turnaround time from initial Gram stain detection of positive BACTEC bottles to PCR amplicon detection by agarose gel electrophoresis is less than 3 hours. In a clinical evaluation of 181 blood culture isolates, there was a 99% correlation with standard susceptibility results for Staphylococcus aureus. Discrepant results for Staphylococcus aureus isolates were verified by a Mueller Hinton plate supplemented with 6 microg/mL of oxacillin and 2% sodium chloride. For coagulase-negative staphylococci, the PCR method detected an additional seven resistant isolates that were reported by the Vitek as susceptible. Coagulase-negative staphylococcal susceptibility results that were in disagreement with the PCR assay were confirmed by the disk-diffusion method. This procedure is accurate, rapid and fits well into laboratory work flow. Rapid detection of the mecA gene on positive blood culture vials has become a routine test in the authors' clinical microbiology laboratory.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / analysis*
  • Bacteriological Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Methicillin Resistance / genetics*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / methods
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Staphylococcal Infections / diagnosis*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Culture Media
  • DNA, Bacterial