Evaluation of the HOOF-Print assay for typing Brucella abortus strains isolated from cattle in the United States: Results with four performance criteria

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BACKGROUND: A fundamental question that arises during epidemiological investigations of bacterial disease outbreaks is whether the outbreak strain is genetically related to a proposed index strain. Highly discriminating genetic markers for characterizing bacterial strains can help in clarifying the genetic relationships among strains. Under the auspices of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, the European Study Group for Epidemiological Markers (ESGEM) established guidelines for evaluating the performance of typing systems based of a number of criteria. Recently, HOOF-Print genotype analysis, a new method for typing Brucella abortus strains based on hypervariability at eight tandem repeat loci, was described. This paper evaluates the HOOF-Print assay by four of the criteria set out by the ESGEM: typeability, reproducibility, power of discrimination, and concordance with other typing methods.<br /><br />RESULTS: The HOOF-Print Assay was evaluated with a test population composed of 97 unrelated field isolates and 6 common laboratory strains of B. abortus. Both typeability and reproducibility of the assay were excellent. Allele diversity and frequency varied widely among the eight loci, ranging from 1 to 13 alleles. The power of discrimination, measured by the Hunter-Gaston discrimination index (HGDI), varied by locus ranging from 0 to 0.89, where a maximal value of 1.0 indicates discrimination of all strains. The HGDI values calculated for subgroups sorted by biovar were similar to the values determined for the whole population. None of the individual loci achieved the recommended HGDI threshold of 0.95, but the HGDI of the composite profiles was 0.99 (93 unique genotypes from 97 field strains evaluated), well above the recommended threshold. By comparison, the HGDI value for biovar typing was 0.61 in a test population biased with disproportionate numbers of the less common biovars. Cluster analysis based on HOOF-Print genotypes assembled the strains into hierarchical groups with no apparent association with the time or location of strain isolation. Likewise, these hierarchical groups were not homogeneous with regard to biotype. In one extreme case, two field isolates with identical fingerprints were identified as different biovars by conventional methods.<br /><br />CONCLUSION: The main purpose of this study was to assess the ability of HOOF-Print genotyping to discriminate unrelated field strains of B. abortus, and whether the assay met established requirements for bacterial strain typing methods. The discriminatory power of the assay was remarkable, considering the genetic homogeneity found among species within the genus. The assay met or exceeded all of the recommended levels for the performance criteria of typeability, reproducibility, and power of discrimination, however some inconsistencies with conventional biovar typing were observed. Nevertheless, the results indicate that with cautious interpretation, multilocus genotyping of polymorphic tandem repeats by HOOF-Print analysis could be a valuable complement to routine epidemiological investigations into localized B. abortus outbreaks.




Bricker, B. J., & Ewalt, D. R. (2005). Evaluation of the HOOF-Print assay for typing Brucella abortus strains isolated from cattle in the United States: Results with four performance criteria. BMC Microbiology, 5. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2180-5-37

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