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Clinical sensitivity and specificity of a real-time PCR assay for Campylobacter fetus subsp venerealis in preputial samples from bulls

Alvaro García Guerra DVM, MSc1, Bonnie Chaban PhD2, Janet E. Hill BSc, PhD3, Cheryl L. Waldner DVM, PhD4, and Steven H. Hendrick DVM, DVSc5
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  • 1 Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4, Canada.
  • | 2 Department of Veterinary Microbiology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4, Canada.
  • | 3 Department of Veterinary Microbiology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4, Canada.
  • | 4 Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4, Canada.
  • | 5 Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4, Canada.

Abstract

Objective—To determine clinical sensitivity and specificity of a quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) assay for Campylobacter fetus subsp venerealis (Cfv) in preputial samples of bulls.

Animals—313 beef bulls.

Procedures—Preputial samples were collected from 300 virgin bulls and 13 Cfv-infected bulls. Specificity of the qRT-PCR assay, determined on the basis of results for samples collected from virgin bulls, was compared with specificity of bacteriologic culture performed with transport enrichment medium (TEM). Sensitivity of the qRT-PCR assay, determined on the basis of results for multiple samples collected at weekly intervals from infected bulls, was compared with sensitivity of the direct fluorescent antibody test (DFAT), bacteriologic culture, and bacteriologic culture with TEM.

Results—Specificity was 85% for the qRT-PCR assay and 100% for bacteriologic culture; results were significantly different. Mean sensitivity was 85.4% for the qRT-PCR assay, 82.3% for direct culture in blood agar, 72.1% for the DFAT, 32.7% for direct culture in Skirrow agar, 30% for bacteriologic culture with TEM and blood agar, and 38.1% for bacteriologic culture with TEM and Skirrow agar. Differences in sensitivity among tests varied with ambient outdoor temperature. Repeated sampling significantly increased sensitivity of the qRT-PCR assay.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Use of the qRT-PCR assay as a screening test on direct preputial samples had comparable sensitivity to bacteriologic culture, and repeated sampling improved sensitivity. Although improved performance of the qRT-PCR assay, compared with direct bacteriologic culture, was dependent on temperature, transport times that allow direct culture are unlikely under field conditions. The qRT-PCR assay would provide a fast and sensitive screening method for Cfv in bulls.

Abstract

Objective—To determine clinical sensitivity and specificity of a quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) assay for Campylobacter fetus subsp venerealis (Cfv) in preputial samples of bulls.

Animals—313 beef bulls.

Procedures—Preputial samples were collected from 300 virgin bulls and 13 Cfv-infected bulls. Specificity of the qRT-PCR assay, determined on the basis of results for samples collected from virgin bulls, was compared with specificity of bacteriologic culture performed with transport enrichment medium (TEM). Sensitivity of the qRT-PCR assay, determined on the basis of results for multiple samples collected at weekly intervals from infected bulls, was compared with sensitivity of the direct fluorescent antibody test (DFAT), bacteriologic culture, and bacteriologic culture with TEM.

Results—Specificity was 85% for the qRT-PCR assay and 100% for bacteriologic culture; results were significantly different. Mean sensitivity was 85.4% for the qRT-PCR assay, 82.3% for direct culture in blood agar, 72.1% for the DFAT, 32.7% for direct culture in Skirrow agar, 30% for bacteriologic culture with TEM and blood agar, and 38.1% for bacteriologic culture with TEM and Skirrow agar. Differences in sensitivity among tests varied with ambient outdoor temperature. Repeated sampling significantly increased sensitivity of the qRT-PCR assay.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Use of the qRT-PCR assay as a screening test on direct preputial samples had comparable sensitivity to bacteriologic culture, and repeated sampling improved sensitivity. Although improved performance of the qRT-PCR assay, compared with direct bacteriologic culture, was dependent on temperature, transport times that allow direct culture are unlikely under field conditions. The qRT-PCR assay would provide a fast and sensitive screening method for Cfv in bulls.

Contributor Notes

Dr. García Guerra's present address is Department of Dairy Science, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706.

Supported by BCRC (Beef Cattle Research Council), ALMA (Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency), ABP (Alberta Beef Producers), CAAP (Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program), Horned Cattle Trust Fund, and the Cattle Marketing Deductions Fund. Agri-Environment Services Branch provided animals and personnel for assistance during sample collection.

The authors thank Heidi Dube, Champika Fernando, and Dr. Andrea Di Marzo for technical assistance.

Address correspondence to Dr. García Guerra (garciaguerra@wisc.edu).