Research Article| Volume 83, ISSUE 2, P167-174, August 2021

Development and evaluation of a nanopore 16S rRNA gene sequencing service for same day targeted treatment of bacterial respiratory infection in the intensive care unit


      • Nanopore sequencing can provide a same day result for respiratory infection on ICU.
      • Nanopore 16S sequencing was able to identify causative pathogen in 32/33 cases.
      • Providing a sequenced negative result adds value to patient management.
      • Further work is required to standardise and automate this technology for routine use.



      Assess the feasibility and impact of nanopore-based 16S rRNA gene sequencing (Np16S) service on antibiotic treatment for acute severe pneumonia on the intensive care unit (ICU).


      Speciation and sequencing accuracy of Np16S on isolates with bioinformatics pipeline optimisation, followed by technical evaluation including quality checks and clinical-reporting criteria analysing stored respiratory samples using single-sample flow cells. Pilot service comparing Np16S results with all routine respiratory tests and impact on same-day antimicrobial prescribing.


      Np16S correctly identified 140/167 (84%) isolates after 1h sequencing and passed quality control criteria including reproducibility and limit-of-detection. Sequencing of 108 stored respiratory samples showed concordance with routine culture in 80.5% of cases and established technical and clinical reporting criteria. A 10-week same-day pilot Np16S service analysed 45 samples from 37 patients with suspected community (n=15) or hospital acquired (n=30) pneumonia. Np16S showed concordance compared with all routine culture or molecular tests for 27 (82%) of 33 positive samples. It identified the causative pathogen in 32/33 (97%) samples and contributed to antimicrobial treatment changes for 30 patients (67%).


      This study demonstrates feasibility of providing a routine same-day nanopore sequencing service that makes a significant contribution to early antibiotic prescribing for bacterial pneumonia in the ICU.


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