A comparison of two molecular methods for diagnosing leptospirosis from three different sample types in patients presenting with fever in Laos

K. Woods*, C. Nic-Fhogartaigh, C. Arnold, L. Boutthasavong, W. Phuklia, C. Lim, A. Chanthongthip, S. M. Tulsiani, S. B. Craig, M. A. Burns, S. L. Weier, V. Davong, S. Sihalath, D. Limmathurotsakul, D. A.B. Dance, Nandini Shetty, Maria Zambon, P. N. Newton, S. Dittrich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To compare two molecular assays (rrs quantitative PCR (qPCR) versus a combined 16SrRNA and LipL32 qPCR) on different sample types for diagnosing leptospirosis in febrile patients presenting to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Laos. Methods: Serum, buffy coat and urine samples were collected on admission, and follow-up serum ∼10 days later. Leptospira spp. culture and microscopic agglutination tests (MAT) were performed as reference standards. Bayesian latent class modelling was performed to estimate sensitivity and specificity of each diagnostic test. Results: In all, 787 patients were included in the analysis: 4/787 (0.5%) were Leptospira culture positive, 30/787 (3.8%) were MAT positive, 76/787 (9.7%) were rrs qPCR positive and 20/787 (2.5%) were 16SrRNA/LipL32 qPCR positive for pathogenic Leptospira spp. in at least one sample. Estimated sensitivity and specificity (with 95% CI) of 16SrRNA/LipL32 qPCR on serum (53.9% (33.3%–81.8%); 99.6% (99.2%–100%)), buffy coat (58.8% (34.4%–90.9%); 99.9% (99.6%–100%)) and urine samples (45.0% (27.0%–66.7%); 99.6% (99.3%–100%)) were comparable with those of rrs qPCR, except specificity of 16SrRNA/LipL32 qPCR on urine samples was significantly higher (99.6% (99.3%–100%) vs. 92.5% (92.3%–92.8%), p <0.001). Sensitivities of MAT (16% (95% CI 6.3%–29.4%)) and culture (25% (95% CI 13.3%–44.4%)) were low. Mean positive Cq values showed that buffy coat samples were more frequently inhibitory to qPCR than either serum or urine (p <0.001). Conclusions: Serum and urine are better samples for qPCR than buffy coat, and 16SrRNA/LipL32 qPCR performs better than rrs qPCR on urine. Quantitative PCR on admission is a reliable rapid diagnostic tool, performing better than MAT or culture, with significant implications for clinical and epidemiological investigations of this global neglected disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017.e1-1017.e7
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the Wellcome Trust of Great Britain (grant nos.: 106698/Z/14/Z and 106698/B/14/Z ). The secondment of authors KW and CNF to Laos was funded by Public Health England ( RPW1 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors


  • Bayesian
  • Buffy coat
  • Laos
  • Latent class model
  • Leptospira
  • Leptospirosis
  • Molecular diagnosis
  • Quantitative PCR
  • Serum
  • Urine


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