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Open Access False-Positive Results after Environmental Pinworm PCR Testing due to Rhabditid Nematodes in Corncob Bedding

Modern rodent colonies are housed in individually ventilated cages to protect the animals from contamination with adventitious pathogens. Standard health monitoring through soiled-bedding sentinels does not always detect infections, especially in the context of low pathogen prevalence. Recently proposed alternatives include analyzing environmental samples from the cages or rack exhaust by PCR to improve the detection of rodent pathogens but optimal sampling strategies have not yet been established for different microorganisms. Although generally very sensitive and specific, these molecular assays are not foolproof and subject to false-positive and –negative results and should always be interpreted cautiously with an overall understanding of the intrinsic controls and all the variables that may affect the results. Here, we report a limited Aspiculuris tetraptera outbreak in a mouse barrier facility that was detected by fecal PCR in sentinels and confirmed by fecal flotation and direct cecal examination of both sentinels and colony animals. The outbreak led to a widespread survey of all facilities for pinworms by using environmental PCR from ventilated rack exhaust plenums. Environmental PCR suggested an unexpected widespread contamination of all ventilated racks holding nonautoclaved cages, but results could not be confirmed in sentinel or colony animals by fecal flotation, cecal and colonic examination, or cage PCR testing. After additional investigation, the unexpected environmental PCR results were confirmed as false-positive findings due to the nonspecificity of the assay, leading to the amplification of rhabditid nematodes, which are not infectious in rodents but which contaminated the corncob bedding.

Document Type: Case Report

Affiliations: 1: Animal Resources Department, The Salk Institute, for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California, USA 2: Animal Resources Department, The Salk Institute, for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California, USA. [email protected]

Publication date: November 1, 2014

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  • The Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (JAALAS) serves as an official communication vehicle for the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). The journal includes a section of refereed articles and a section of AALAS association news. The mission of the refereed section of the journal is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information on animal biology, technology, facility operations, management, and compliance as relevant to the AALAS membership. JAALAS accepts research reports (data-based) or scholarly reports (literature-based), with the caveat that all articles, including solicited manuscripts, must include appropriate references and must undergo peer review.

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