Evaluation of Dried Blood and Cerebrospinal Fluid Filter Paper Spots for Storing and Transporting Clinical Material for the Molecular Diagnosis of Invasive Meningococcal Disease

Kwambana-Adams BA, Clark SA, Tay N, Agbla S, Chaguza C, Kagucia EW, Borrow R, Heyderman RS
Int J Mol Sci. 2022;23

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To improve the storage and transport of clinical specimens for the diagnosis of Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) infections in resource-limited settings, we have evaluated the performance of dried blood spot (DBS) and dried cerebrospinal fluid spot (DCS) assays. DBS and DCS were prepared on filter paper from liquid specimens previously tested for Nm in the United Kingdom. Nm was detected and genogrouped by real-time PCR performed on crude genomic DNA extracted from the DBS (n = 226) and DCS (n = 226) specimens. Targeted whole-genome sequencing was performed on a subset of specimens, DBS (n = 4) and DCS (n = 6). The overall agreement between the analysis of liquid and dried specimens was (94.2%; 95% CI 90.8-96.7) for blood and (96.4%; 95% CI 93.5-98.0) for cerebrospinal fluid. Relative to liquid specimens as the reference, the DBS and DCS assays had sensitivities of (89.1%; 95% CI 82.7-93.8) and (94.2%; 95% CI 88.9-97.5), respectively, and both assays had specificities above 98%. A genogroup was identified by dried specimen analysis for 81.9% of the confirmed meningococcal infections. Near full-length Nm genome sequences (>86%) were obtained for all ten specimens tested which allowed determination of the sequence type, clonal complex, presence of antimicrobial resistance and other meningococcal genotyping. Dried blood and CSF filter spot assays offer a practical alternative to liquid specimens for the molecular and genomic characterisation of invasive meningococcal diseases in low-resource settings.