1887

Abstract

. Increased plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA) has been reported for various diseases in which cell death and tissue/organ damage contribute to pathogenesis, including sepsis.

. While several studies report a rise in plasma cfDNA in bacteraemia and sepsis, the main source of cfDNA has not been identified.

. In this study, we wanted to determine which of nuclear, mitochondrial or bacterial cfDNA is the major contributor to raised plasma cfDNA in hospital subjects with bloodstream infections and could therefore serve as a predictor of bacteraemic disease severity.

. The total plasma concentration of double-stranded cfDNA was determined using a fluorometric assay. The presence of bacterial DNA was identified by PCR and DNA sequencing. The copy numbers of human genes, nuclear and mitochondrial , were determined by droplet digital PCR. The presence, size and concentration of apoptotic DNA from human cells were established using lab-on-a-chip technology.

. We observed a significant difference in total plasma cfDNA from a median of 75 ng ml in hospitalised subjects without bacteraemia to a median of 370 ng ml (=0.0003) in bacteraemic subjects. The copy numbers of nuclear DNA in bacteraemic also differed between a median of 1.6 copies µl and 7.3 copies µl (=0.0004), respectively. In contrast, increased mitochondrial cfDNA was not specific for bacteraemic subjects, as shown by median values of 58 copies µl in bacteraemic subjects, 55 copies µl in other hospitalised subjects and 5.4 copies µl in healthy controls. Apoptotic nucleosomal cfDNA was detected only in a subpopulation of bacteraemic subjects with documented comorbidities, consistent with elevated plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in these subjects. No bacterial cfDNA was reliably detected by PCR in plasma of bacteraemic subjects over the course of infection with several bacterial pathogens.

. Our data revealed distinctive plasma cfDNA signatures in different groups of hospital subjects. The total cfDNA was significantly increased in hospital subjects with laboratory-confirmed bloodstream infections comprising nuclear and apoptotic, but not mitochondrial or bacterial cfDNAs. The apoptotic cfDNA, potentially derived from blood cells, predicted established bacteraemia. These findings deserve further investigation in different hospital settings, where cfDNA measurement could provide simple and quantifiable parameters for monitoring a disease progression.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. This article was made open access via a Publish and Read agreement between the Microbiology Society and the corresponding author’s institution.
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2022-06-14
2022-06-25
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