Evaluating the potential for respiratory metagenomics to improve treatment of secondary infection and detection of nosocomial transmission on expanded COVID-19 intensive care units

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Genome Med. 2021 Nov 17;13(1):182. doi: 10.1186/s13073-021-00991-y.


BACKGROUND: Clinical metagenomics (CMg) has the potential to be translated from a research tool into routine service to improve antimicrobial treatment and infection control decisions. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic provides added impetus to realise these benefits, given the increased risk of secondary infection and nosocomial transmission of multi-drug-resistant (MDR) pathogens linked with the expansion of critical care capacity.

METHODS: CMg using nanopore sequencing was evaluated in a proof-of-concept study on 43 respiratory samples from 34 intubated patients across seven intensive care units (ICUs) over a 9-week period during the first COVID-19 pandemic wave.

RESULTS: An 8-h CMg workflow was 92% sensitive (95% CI, 75-99%) and 82% specific (95% CI, 57-96%) for bacterial identification based on culture-positive and culture-negative samples, respectively. CMg sequencing reported the presence or absence of β-lactam-resistant genes carried by Enterobacterales that would modify the initial guideline-recommended antibiotics in every case. CMg was also 100% concordant with quantitative PCR for detecting Aspergillus fumigatus from 4 positive and 39 negative samples. Molecular typing using 24-h sequencing data identified an MDR-K. pneumoniae ST307 outbreak involving 4 patients and an MDR-C. striatum outbreak involving 14 patients across three ICUs.

CONCLUSION: CMg testing provides accurate pathogen detection and antibiotic resistance prediction in a same-day laboratory workflow, with assembled genomes available the next day for genomic surveillance. The provision of this technology in a service setting could fundamentally change the multi-disciplinary team approach to managing ICU infections. The potential to improve the initial targeted treatment and rapidly detect unsuspected outbreaks of MDR-pathogens justifies further expedited clinical assessment of CMg.

PMID:34784976 | DOI:10.1186/s13073-021-00991-y