Multiplex PCR for the detection of Mycoplasma fermentans, M-hominis and M-penetrans in cell cultures and blood samples of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome

A multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was initially developed to detect the presence of mycoplasma genus DNA sequences in cell cultures and to differentiate between three human pathogenic mycoplasma species simultaneously. The assay in turn, proved to be a useful tool for the detection of mycoplasma infection in human DNA samples. One set of oligonucleotide primers which are specific for a highly conserved region among all members of the genus mycoplasma along with three other primer sets which are specific for Mycoplasma fermentans, Mycoplasma hominis andMycoplasma penetrans species were used in this assay. The sensitivity of detection was determined by infecting peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of healthy individuals with known bacterial copy numbers from each species, extracting the DNA, and subjecting 1 microgram of DNA from each sample to 40 cycles of amplification. By using agarose gel electrophoresis the detection level was determined to be 7, 7, 9 and 15 mycoplasma cells per microgram of human genomic DNA for M. genus,M. fermentans, M. hominis and M. penetrans, respectively. The assay was applied to DNA extracted from the PBMCs of individuals suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) (n=100) as determined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) criteria, and compared to healthy individuals (n=100). The percentage of M. genus infection was found to be 52% in CFS patients and only 15% in healthy individuals. Mycoplasma fermentans, M. hominis andM. penetrans were detected in 32, 9 and 6% of the CFS patients while they were detected in 8, 3 and 2% of the healthy control subjects, respectively. This assay provides a rapid and cost efficient procedure to screen either cell cultures or clinical samples for the presence of three potentially pathogenic species of mycoplasma with a high level of sensitivity and specificity.

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