Contribution of the FilmArray ® Gastrointestinal Panel in the laboratory diagnosis of gastroenteritis in a cohort of children: a two-year prospective study.

This study represents a 2-year picture of the epidemiology of enteric pathogens in children suffering from gastroenteritis using the FilmArray® Gastrointestinal Panel (FA-GP), a multiplex molecular assay that allows to simultaneously detect a large panel of pathogens independently of the etiological suspicion and to evaluate its potential contribution to the diagnosis compared to the conventional methods. A total of 1716 stool samples, collected from children with clinical suspicion of bacterial and/or viral gastroenteritis attending the University Hospital of Parma, was submitted to the FA-GP and, when an adequate aliquot was available, to electron microscopy (n=1163) for virus detection and to an enterovirus-targeting realtime PCR (n= 1703). Specimens with positive results for Salmonella, Yersinia enterocolitica, Vibrio, diarrheagenic Escherichia coli/Shigella, Campylobacter, Plesiomonas shigelloides and/or parasites by the FA-GP were also submitted to conventional diagnostic methods. The FA-GP gave positive results in 958 (55.8%) cases, 64.8% from inpatients: 647 (67.5%) contained a single agent and 311 (32.5%) multiple agents, for a total of 1374 pathogens. Enteropathogenic E. coli, rotavirus, norovirus, toxigenic Clostridioides difficile, and sapovirus were the most commonly detected pathogens. A total of 812 additional agents (344 of which as single pathogen) was detected by the FA-GP and not included in the clinical suspicion. The overall recovery rate of the conventional methods from stools that resulted positive by the FA-GP was 38.6% for bacteria, 50% and 84.2% for Giardia intestinalis and Cryptosporidium, respectively, and ranged from 3.7% to 64.6% for viruses, if excluding all electron microscopy-negative astroviruses. Enterovirus, an agent not targeted by the FA-GP, was revealed in 9.6% (164/1703) of the examined samples, and in 52 cases it was the only agent detected. The results of this study allowed to extend the range of detectable pathogens independently of the clinical suspicion, to detect co-infections in almost one third of children positive for at least one agent and to show that conventional methods would have missed more than half of the enteric agents detected by the FA-GP.

Adriana Calderaro, Monica Martinelli, Mirko Buttrini, Sara Montecchini, Silvia Covan, Sabina Rossi, Francesca Ferraglia, Paolo Montagna, Federica Pinardi, Sandra Larini, Maria Cristina Arcangeletti, Maria Cristina Medici, Carlo Chezzi, Flora De Conto
International journal of medical microbiology : IJMM