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Identification of bacterial pathogens in sudden unexpected death in infancy and childhood using 16S rRNA gene sequencing

Gates, Lily; Mistry, Talisa; Ogunbiyi, Olumide; Kite, Kerry-Anne; Klein, Nigel J; Sebire, Neil J; Alber, Dagmar G; (2023) Identification of bacterial pathogens in sudden unexpected death in infancy and childhood using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Frontiers in Microbiology , 14 , Article 1171670. 10.3389/fmicb.2023.1171670. Green open access

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Abstract

Background Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) is the most common cause of post-neonatal death in the developed world. Following an extensive investigation, the cause of ~40% of deaths remains unknown. It is hypothesized that a proportion of deaths are due to an infection that remains undetected due to limitations in routine techniques. This study aimed to apply 16S rRNA gene sequencing to post-mortem (PM) tissues collected from cases of SUDI, as well as those from the childhood equivalent (collectively known as sudden unexpected death in infancy and childhood or SUDIC), to investigate whether this molecular approach could help identify potential infection-causing bacteria to enhance the diagnosis of infection. Methods In this study, 16S rRNA gene sequencing was applied to de-identified frozen post-mortem (PM) tissues from the diagnostic archive of Great Ormond Street Hospital. The cases were grouped depending on the cause of death: (i) explained non-infectious, (ii) infectious, and (iii) unknown. Results and conclusions In the cases of known bacterial infection, the likely causative pathogen was identified in 3/5 cases using bacterial culture at PM compared to 5/5 cases using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Where a bacterial infection was identified at routine investigation, the same organism was identified by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Using these findings, we defined criteria based on sequencing reads and alpha diversity to identify PM tissues with likely infection. Using these criteria, 4/20 (20%) cases of unexplained SUDIC were identified which may be due to bacterial infection that was previously undetected. This study demonstrates the potential feasibility and effectiveness of 16S rRNA gene sequencing in PM tissue investigation to improve the diagnosis of infection, potentially reducing the number of unexplained deaths and improving the understanding of the mechanisms involved.

Type: Article
Title: Identification of bacterial pathogens in sudden unexpected death in infancy and childhood using 16S rRNA gene sequencing
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2023.1171670
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2023.1171670
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health > Infection, Immunity and Inflammation Dept
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10172697
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