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Multiplex PCR test proves to be better alternative to diagnose gastrointestinal infections: Experts

Shardul Nautiyal, Mumbai
Saturday, March 20, 2021, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test has demonstrated its superiority in diagnosing gastrointestinal infections and has proved to be a rapid, sensitive and specific alternative to conventional detection methods, according to experts.

The conventional tests include stool culture, microscopy for ova and parasite, ELISA and rapid lateral flow test that can only test one to a few bacterial pathogens per test and takes anywhere between 30 minutes to three days.

As against this, molecular tests such as PCR help with faster and accurate diagnosis of the causative organism. As the detection is based on presence or absence of virulence associated genes of the organism, the identification is highly specific. Over and above this, the fact that presence or absence of all the probable causative organism can be carried out at one go, it negates the need for a cumbersome step-by-step process to arrive at the final diagnosis.

Dr. Gunisha Pasricha, principal scientist, MedGenome Labs informed, “MedGenome’s Gastrointestinal Pathogen Panel is a qualitative multiplex PCR-based test to detect and differentiate nine species of groups of bacteria, four parasites and five viruses that can all cause gastroenteritis in humans in a single test. It is a new and innovative tool to help in the diagnosis of gastrointestinal diseases and will help the clinicians take an informed decision for the patient.”

Gastrointestinal infectious diseases are very common worldwide and an important cause of morbidity and mortality, particularly in infants in developing countries like India. According to WHO, globally, there are nearly 1.7 billion cases of childhood diarrheal disease each year and it kills around 525,000 children under ?ve every year. Diarrhoea and other intestinal infections are caused by a wide range of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and parasites.

The traditional culture and microscopy procedures are time-consuming, lack sensitivity and require special laboratory setup and well-trained staff. However, based on the advancement in the molecular diagnostics and with the introduction of commercially available tests, traditional diagnostic techniques have been continuously replaced by these newer rapid antigen detection and molecular-based methods.

MedGenome’s new offering of the Gastrointestinal Pathogen Panel is a qualitative multiplex PCR-based test which helps detect and differentiate within less than three hours species or groups of bacteria and five viruses that can all cause gastroenteritis in humans.

“We are all aware about RT-PCR and how it is considered as gold standard for Covid-19 diagnosis. In gastrointestinal infections, our Gastrointestinal Pathogen Panel can test multiple pathogens in a single test. It is a qualitative multiplex PCR test that detects DNA or RNA of pathogens causing common gastrointestinal infections from stool samples,” Dr. Pasricha further informed.

Individuals suffering from diarrhoea with fever, severe abdominal cramps, signs of sepsis, moderate to severe disease, high risk of spreading disease to others and during known or suspected outbreaks, presenting with dysentery, symptoms lasting more than seven days and immunocompromised patients with diarrhea are eligible for the test.

Talking about steps in conducting the test, Dr Pasricha explained, “Once the stool specimen reaches the lab, we have a pre-analytical check which is the first level of quality check. Once we have this passed through quality control (QC), the sample is proceeded for the lab protocols. The next step that follows is the nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) extraction. The extracted nucleic acid is now used to identify the target genes using the specific primer probes for the pathogens listed in the panel. The outcome is then shared with the treating clinician in terms of a report.”


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