The effect of the transition to molecular diagnosis on the epidemiology and the clinical characteristics of bacterial gastroenteritis in Northern Israel

Dana Sagas, Amos Adler, Carmel Kasher, Khozayma Khamaysi, Merav Strauss, Bibiana Chazan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The transition to PCR-based diagnosis of bacterial gastroenteritis (BGE) can increase the sensitivity but might reduce the clinical specificity. The aims of this study were (1) to compare the effect of the change from culture to PCR-based diagnostics on the reported incidence and positivity rates of BGE due to Salmonella, Shigella and Campylobacter species and (2) to compare the demographics, medical background, clinical characteristics and pre-analytic variables between cases with PCR-positive, culture-negative samples to cases with PCR-positive, culture-positive samples. Methods: The study was performed at the Emek Medical Centre that serves a population of 0.5 million people in Northern Israel. The study included two parts: (1) a retrospective cohort study, comparing the incidence and positivity rates of laboratory-diagnosed BGE from January 2016 until December 22nd, 2019 when culture was the sole method to January 2020 until April 2023 when PCR was used; (2) a prospective cohort study, conducted between November 2020 until April 2023 that compared the demographics and clinical characteristics of BGE cases that were diagnosed by PCR alone versus cases that were diagnosed by both PCR and culture. Results: The incidence rate between-periods comparability ratio was only 113% since the incidence rate did not increase during 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sample positivity rate increased since 2020, with between-periods comparability ratio of 159%. In the second period, the sample positivity rates of culture vs. PCR alone differed between the pathogens and were 90.2%, 63.8% and 54.2% for Salmonella, Campylobacter and Shigella species, respectively (p < 0.001). The following variables were identified as independent predictors of culture positivity: (1) Salmonella infection (O.R. = 10.6, 95% C.I. 3.6–31.1, p < 0.001); (2) Shigella infection (O.R. = 0.46, 95% C.I.0.23–0.93, p = 0.032); (3) time from sample submission to culture (O.R.=0.73, 95% C.I. 0.58–0.92, p = 0.008); (4) the presence of abdominal pain (O.R. = 1.98, 95% C.I. 1.04–3.79, p = 0.038) and the PCR mean Ct value (O.R. = 0.89, 95% C.I.0.85–0.94, p < 0.001). Conclusions: The use of PCR had led to improved sensitivity, without noticeable decrease in the clinical specificity. This was especially important in the case of the more fastidious organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-163
Number of pages7
JournalInfectious Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • bacterial gastroenteritis
  • PCR


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