Quantitative Detection and Genotyping of Helicobacter pylori from Stool using Droplet Digital PCR Reveals Variation in Bacterial Loads that Correlates with cagA Virulence Gene Carriage.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Helicobacter, Volume 21, Issue 4, p.325-333 (2016)


Genomics Core Facility


BACKGROUND: Epidemiologic studies of the carcinogenic stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori have been limited by the lack of noninvasive detection and genotyping methods. We developed a new stool-based method for detection, quantification, and partial genotyping of H. pylori using droplet digital PCR (ddPCR), which allows for increased sensitivity and absolute quantification by PCR partitioning. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Stool-based ddPCR assays for H. pylori 16S gene detection and cagA virulence gene typing were tested using a collection of 50 matched stool and serum samples from Costa Rican volunteers and 29 H. pylori stool antigen-tested stool samples collected at a US hospital. RESULTS: The stool-based H. pylori 16S ddPCR assay had a sensitivity of 84% and 100% and a specificity of 100% and 71% compared to serology and stool antigen tests, respectively. The stool-based cagA genotyping assay detected cagA in 22 (88%) of 25 stools from CagA antibody-positive individuals and four (16%) of 25 stools from CagA antibody-negative individuals from Costa Rica. All 26 of these samples had a Western-type cagA allele. Presence of serum CagA antibodies was correlated with a significantly higher load of H. pylori in the stool. CONCLUSIONS: The stool-based ddPCR assays are a sensitive, noninvasive method for detection, quantification, and partial genotyping of H. pylori. The quantitative nature of ddPCR-based H. pylori detection revealed significant variation in bacterial load among individuals that correlates with presence of the cagA virulence gene. These stool-based ddPCR assays will facilitate future population-based epidemiologic studies of this important human pathogen.