Detection of Streptococcus pneumoniae from different types of nasopharyngeal swabs in children

BACKGROUND: A better understanding of the epidemiology of nasopharyngeal carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae is important to assess the impact of vaccination and the pathogenesis of pneumococcal disease. We compared the recovery of S. pneumoniae from nylon flocked, Dacron and rayon swabs. METHODS: The recovery of S. pneumoniae from mocked specimens using flocked, Dacron and rayon swabs were compared by culture. The yield from paired nasopharyngeal (NP) samples obtained from healthy children sampled with flocked and Dacron swabs was also determined using culture and lytA -targeted real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). RESULTS: Using mock specimen, the percentage recovery of S. pneumoniae ATCC 49619 (serotype 19F) strain from the flocked swabs was 100%, while it was 41% from Dacron swabs and 7% from rayon swabs. Similar results were observed for S. pneumoniae serotypes 1 and 5. S. pneumoniae was cultured from 18 of 42 (43%) paired NP samples from the healthy children (median age 8 [interquartile range (IQR) 5-16] months). The median number of colony-forming units (CFU) recovered from flocked swabs was two-fold higher (8.8×10 4 CFU/mL [IQR, 2.0×10 2 - 4.0×10 5 CFU/mL]) than Dacron swabs (3.7×10 4 CFU/mL [IQR, 4.0×10 2 -3.2×10 5 CFU/mL], p  = 0.17). Using lytA -targeted qPCR from paired NP samples, the median copy number of S. pneumoniae detected from flocked swabs was significantly higher than from Dacron swabs (3.0×10 5 genome copies/mL [IQR, 1.3×10 2 −1.8×10 6 ] vs. 9.3×10 4 genome copies/mL [IQR, 7.0×10 1 −1.1×10 6 ]; p  = 0.005). CONCLUSION: Flocked swabs released more S. pneumoniae compared to both Dacron and rayon swabs from mock specimens. Similarly, higher bacterial loads were detected by qPCR from flocked swabs compared with Dacron swabs from healthy children.