From quellung to multiplex PCR, and back when needed, in pneumococcal serotyping

Academic Article


  • All currently available vaccines against Streptococcus pneumoniae are based on selections of the over 90 different serotypes, which underlines the importance of serotyping for surveillance and vaccine efficacy monitoring. In this study, we modified and validated a PCR-based scheme for deducing the serotypes of the invasive pneumococci isolated in Finland. For validation, 170 isolates were serotyped using the new protocol with six sequential multiplex PCRs for the deduction of serotypes, supplemented with Quellung testing when needed. The results were compared with those obtained by traditional serotyping methods. We found that 98.8% (168/170) of the isolates were correctly serotyped by the new protocol. Subsequently, the scheme was taken into regular use for serotyping the invasive pneumococci isolated in Finland for serotype-specific surveillance purposes and has been applied in the serotyping of more than 1,500 invasive isolates so far. The sequential multiplex PCRs (mPCRs) have given a result for over 99% of the isolates and allowed us to both handle samples in bulk and noticeably reduce the cost of reagents. While serotyping primarily by PCR is precise and effective, Quellung testing remains the most reliable way to discover possible discrepancies between the DNA deduced and the phenotypic serotype of an isolate. Since implementing the protocol for regular use, two serotype 19F PCR-positive isolates were found to be serotype 19A by the Quellung reaction. While a rare occurrence, this is an important observation, which prompted a revision of our serotyping protocol to prevent possible underreporting of serotype 19A, a potential replacement serotype following large-scale vaccination. Copyright © 2012, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Siira L; Kaijalainen T; Lambertsen L; Nahm MH; Toropainen M; Virolainena A
  • Start Page

  • 2727
  • End Page

  • 2731
  • Volume

  • 50
  • Issue

  • 8