Detection of tick-borne bacteria from whole blood using 16S ribosomal RNA gene PCR followed by next-generation sequencing

Kyle G. Rodino, Matthew J. Wolf, Sarah Sheldon, Luke C. Kingry, Jeannine M. Petersen, Robin Patel, Bobbi S. Pritt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reported cases of tick-borne diseases have steadily increased for more than a decade. In the United States, a majority of tick-borne infections are caused by bacteria. Clinical diagnosis may be challenging, as tick-borne diseases can present with similar symptoms. Laboratory diagnosis has historically relied on serologic methods, which have limited utility during the acute phase of disease. Pathogen-specific molecular methods have improved early diagnosis, but can be expensive when bundled together and may miss unexpected or novel pathogens. To address these shortcomings, we developed a 16S rRNA gene PCR with a next-generation sequencing (NGS) approach to detect tick-borne bacteria in whole blood. A workflow was optimized by comparing combinations of two extraction platforms and two primer sets, ultimately pursuing DNA extraction from blood with the MagNA Pure 96 and PCR amplification using dual-priming oligonucleotide primers specific to the V1-V3 region of the 16S rRNA gene. The amplified product underwent modified Illumina 16S metagenomics sequencing library preparation and sequencing on a MiSeq V2 Nano flow cell, with data analysis using Pathogenomix RipSeq NGS software. Results with the developed method were compared to those from a V1-V2 16S rRNA gene primer set described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The V1-V3 assay demonstrated equivalent performance to the CDC assay, with each method showing concordance with targeted PCR results in 31 of 32 samples, and detecting 22 of 23 expected organisms. These data demonstrate the potential for using a broad-range bacterial detection approach for diagnosis of tick-borne bacterial infection from blood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere03129-20
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Metagenomics
  • Tick-borne pathogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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